US and Russia in Tense Standoff After Drone Collision Over Black Sea
On March 14, the U.S. European Command released footage of a Russian Su-27 fighter jet colliding with an American MQ-9 Reaper drone above the Black Sea. The incident, which reportedly took place in international airspace, marks the first known physical contact between U.S. and Russian forces since the latter’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The Pentagon said in a news release the two jets dumped fuel on and flew in front of the drone, and then one of them hit the drone’s propeller, which is at the rear of the aircraft. The 42-second video shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, causing the footage to partially pixelate. The camera zooms out as the fighter jet flies away, revealing the drone's rear-mounted propeller functioning properly.
Russian officials said the drone was flying with its transponder turned off and “in violation of the boundaries of the temporary airspace use area” that Russia has declared. The U.S. has disputed this, saying the drone was in fact flying over international waters.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke to their Russian counterparts about the destruction of the drone. Milley said the drone debris has likely sunk to “significant depths” already, making recovery a difficult prospect.
The incident has raised concerns that it could bring the United States and Russia closer to direct conflict. Both the Russian and U.S. responses have been uncompromising, with Moscow reiterating longstanding complaints about intelligence flights near its borders and the U.S. stressing that international airspace is open and that it intends to continue operations near Ukraine.
Senator Lindsey Graham said on Fox News that “What would Ronald Reagan do right now? He would start shooting Russian planes down if they were threatening our assets.” However, host Tucker Carlson reminded viewers that Reagan’s two-term presidency was “notable for the fact that he did not declare war on the Russian air force, and therefore the United States did not go to war with Russia.”
The Reaper, which has a 66-foot wingspan, includes a ground control station and satellite equipment and is capable of carrying munitions.
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