A month ago, two Russian fighter jets deliberately brought down an American Reaper drone on a reconnaissance mission over the Black Sea by dumping fuel on it. While the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) wreck did not bear any sensitive components that inquisitive Russians might obtain if its plan to recover the debris off the deep sea succeeded, the incident serves as a reminder of the value of this sophisticated US military equipment. Not just in terms of cost, but the amount of insider intel adversaries could possibly extract from these state-of-the-art platforms.

Following this incident, the US has reportedly reduced its RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV operations over the Black Sea to avoid repeating what happened.

According to a report by RIA Novosti, the last time the sophisticated American strategic drone flew over the maritime territory near the Crimea region was on March 21, citing Flightradar24 with confirmation obtained by the news agency from an informed source. Since then, the US Air Force has drastically scaled down the number of Global Hawk based in Sicily deployed to the airspace in the Black Sea.

Between March 21 and April 20, the American drone reportedly performed only thee flights, but all within the Romanian airspace at more than 400 kilometers (248 miles) from Crimea. That’s twice over the UAV’s radar capacity, receiving radar images of the terrain up to a maximum range of 200 km (124 miles), the Russian state-owned news outlet wrote.

Before the March 14 incident, the American Global Hawk drones conducted an average of eight to ten reconnaissance flights per month since the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year.