The Pentagon has released footage of the moment a Russian fighter jet crashed into a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea, right after Russian authorities claimed the drone had crashed on its own due to “sharp maneuvering.”
On Tuesday, US forces were flying a $32 million surveillance drone in international airspace when an Su-27 Russian fighter jet approached, dumping fuel over the drone and clipping its propeller, sending it crashing into the Black Sea.
Russian forces rushed to the crash site and, on Wednesday, Russian ships were seen at the site trying to recover debris. The Pentagon, however, assured the public that parts could not be retrieved and any intelligence had been wiped.
After the drone crashed, the Russian defense ministry released a statement saying, “Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons and did not come into contact with the American drone.”
“Due to sharp maneuvering, the American drone went into uncontrolled flight and a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface,” they added.
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Russian security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev spoke on state television about the downed drone, saying that its presence in the Black Sea was “confirmation” that the US was directly involved in the war.
However, newly released footage shows the Russian jet flying “in the vicinity” of the drone for about 30 to 40 minutes. The jet then approaches the drone from behind, dumping fuel on the drone as it passes – which is a tactic typically used in emergency situations in order to detract weight from the aircraft.
The Pentagon has condemned this attack, with State Department spokesman Ned Price calling it a “brazen violation of international law.”
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby criticized Russia’s downing of the drone, calling it “reckless and dangerous” and insisting that this will not “deter or dissuade” US forces from operating in international airspace.
“If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying and operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, then that message will fail,” Kirby said. “We’re going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters. The Black Sea belongs to no one nation.”