This premium article is exclusive to SOFREP+ Subscribers - Thank you for your support.
An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flightline at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Michigan. US Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Wynndemere Shaw.
In an event that has placed international tensions on high alert, Tuesday saw a US military MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone crash helplessly into the Black Sea shortly after being intercepted by Russian fighter jets. It is the first such episode of such an event since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war almost 13 months ago.
United States military commanders call the incident “unsafe and unprofessional.”
As reported in The Guardian, US European Command has put out multiple statements regarding the downing of the American aircraft. They tell how, around 7 AM local time Tuesday morning, two Russian Su-27 Flankers approached the done over international waters west of Crimea.
A US statement recounting the events reads,
“Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,”
The Reaper was not brought down by a rocket or missile. Instead, one of the Russian jets flew so close to our drone that it physically struck the propeller. US officials report that this necessitated our military to bring the drone down, in as much a controlled manner as possible, into international waters in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea.
Cat and Mouse
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder explained how the Su-27s kept in close proximity to the MQ-9 for almost half an hour before the collision occurred. By passing in front of it several times and soaking it with fuel, it was clear their intent was not to immediately bring it down but instead engage in a high-stakes game of “cat and mouse” where both sides lost. It is almost certain that the Russian fighter that collided with the Reaper was damaged to some extent in the incident.
It should not be surprising that the Russians denied downing the $32 million UAV, putting out messages that it came down due to user error.
CNN coverage of the breaking news. Video from YouTube and CNN.
The drone contains a substantial amount of advanced US technology, and it would be a boon to Russian forces if they make it to the wreckage ahead of the Americans. However, as of this writing, reports from the Pentagon are that Russia has not recovered the aircraft. European Command warned that such unprovoked actions could “lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
The Russian side is reporting that they scrambled the fighters because they believed the American aircraft was, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD), “heading in the direction of the Russian Federation.” Perhaps they believed we would attack their nation with a lone 36-foot-long surveillance drone plodding along at less than 300 miles per hour.
The Russian MOD went on to say that “As a result of sharp maneuvering around 9:30 (Moscow time), the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface.” While this may be technically true, the MOD never mentioned the fact that they dumped fuel over it first multiple times and then collided with it. They went on to note that both of their fighters safely returned to base, which, again, may be true, but at least one of them had to be pretty banged up due to the encounter.
The head of the US Marine Corps, General David Berger commented on the incident saying,
“This is my biggest worry, both there and in the Pacific, that an aggressive Russian or Chinese pilot or vessel captain gets too close, doesn’t realize where they are and causes a collision.”
After the news broke, national security council spokesman John Kirby spoke from the White House, saying, “It is not the first time certainly in recent weeks there’s been intercepts.” He continued, “It is the first time that an intercept resulted in the ‘splashing’ of one of our drones.” It’s almost like they were not surprised that it happened.
Kirby stood his ground, saying, “The US will continue to operate in international airspace over international waters. The Black Sea belongs to no one.”
On the other side, Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, says that Moscow views the event as a provocation, but they do not want a confrontation with the United States.
I have a feeling this may only be the first of many such incidents as the Kremlin takes a hard-line stance toward US involvement in their “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Experience news and stories of our veteran journalists with a SOFREP.com subscription! Sign up now and get exclusive access to unique and honest perspectives.
Barrett is the world leader in long-range, large-caliber, precision rifle design and manufacturing. Barrett products are used by civilians, sport shooters, law enforcement agencies, the United States military, and more than 75 State Department-approved countries around the world.
There are on this article.
You must become a subscriber or login to view or post comments on this article.