US-Russian Forces Face Off in Dangerous Collision Over Black Sea
On Thursday, the U.S. European Command released video of a Russian Su-27 fighter jet colliding with an American MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea on March 14. The incident was the first known direct confrontation between the U.S. and Russian forces since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
The collision marked the latest in a pattern of aggressive and dangerous actions by Russian pilots in international airspace, according to a news release from the U.S. European Command. Measuring 36 feet in length, this drone has a wingspan of 66 feet and is capable of carrying a payload of 3,750 pounds.
The footage shows the Russian Su-27 approaching from the drone's rear quarter, releasing a plume of fuel as it passes, appearing to be aimed at blinding its optical instruments and driving it out of the area. It then shows what the Pentagon says is an “even closer” pass from the Russian jet, causing the video feed to pixelate. A final shot shows the video feed restored and one of the drone’s propeller blades bent out of shape.
General Mark Milley of the U.S. Army expressed uncertainty as to whether the Russian jet was deliberately attempting to make contact with the American drone. Three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence said that the highest levels of the Kremlin approved the aggressive actions of Russian military fighter jets against the US drone.
The Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, declared that Moscow viewed the drone incident as “a provocation” after being summoned to Washington to speak to officials. He blamed the incident on the US for “non-compliance with the restricted flight zone declared by the Russian Federation, which was established as part of a special military operation.”
Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, and Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have conversed with their Russian counterparts in regards to the dismantling of the U.S. drone that occurred after its confrontation with Russian fighter jets. On Wednesday, the officials suggested that, based on the video footage, the Russian jet inadvertently hitting the propeller of the drone (which the U.S. asserts took place and Russia has rejected) most likely happened due to a pilot mistake.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Wednesday that relations between the U.S. and Russia were now “at their lowest point, in a very lamentable state”. It is thought to be the initial direct U.S. incident.
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