A Russian aircraft slammed into the propeller of a U.S. surveillance drone operating over the Black Sea on Tuesday as the U.S. military condemned Russia for what it characterized as a dangerous display of unprofessional behavior, officials announced.
Two Russian Su-27 aircraft intercepted a MQ-9 surveillance drone flying through international airspace, repeatedly sloshing fuel over the system and ducking in front of it in an “unprofessional manner,” U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said in a statement. One of the Russian jets struck the drone’s propeller, forcing the U.S. to terminate it over international waters.
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said in a statement.
“In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash,” he added.
EUCOM warned such incidents could increase the risk of escalation between the two countries as both the U.S. and Russia remain in a period of heightened tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Russian aircraft have conducted several reckless or unsafe interceptions of manned and unmanned American and allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea, according to EUCOM. The latest one is the only known to have resulted in a loss since the Ukraine war began.
At least two interceptions of Russian aircraft occurred near Alaska in 2023, according to media reports.
In February, two U.S. F-16 aircraft conducted a “routine” intercept of four Russian military aircraft, including a bomber and SU–25 fighter jets, in international airspace near Alaska, according to CBS News. A similar incident occurred in October.
Happy #B52sday! ✈️
During the current #BTF mission, @RoyalAirForce Typhoons escorted B-52s throughout Europe. These routine missions allow @NATO #Allies to strengthen relationships, increase their capability to mitigate threats, and provide security in the region. pic.twitter.com/FWipzr7QXK
— USAFE-AFAFRICA (@HQUSAFEAFAF) March 14, 2023
“U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker said.
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