Military, Modern Day, News

Russian Fighter Jet Struck a US MQ-9 Reaper Drone

  • On 14 March 2023, a Russian Su-27 hit an American MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea.
  • After receiving considerable damage to its propeller, the drone crashed into international waters.
  • The US called the action reckless, unsafe, and unprofessional.
  • The Russian Defence Ministry denied the blame entirely.

A Russian jet crashed into an MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, 14 March. The US Military and its European Command confirmed the news on Wednesday. 

According to Air Force General James B. Hecker, the US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa Commander, the MQ-9 was on a routine surveillance operation. Out of the blue, two Russian fighter jets intercepted the unarmed drone, causing it to crash into the sea.

Russian SU-27
A Russian SU-27 Jet crashed into an American drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, 14th March (Photo U.S. European Command)

Hecker added that “this incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.” 

Crash Details

The Pentagon said the jet crashed into the MQ-9 at 7:03 AM Central European Time.

The collision may seem unintentional at first glance, but it was far from it. The aircraft flew in the “drone’s vicinity” for 30 to 40 minutes, says Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder. Declassified drone footage shows the jets flying in front of and dumping fuel several times before the crash.

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The crash dented the propeller, which left the US Air Force with no choice but to bring it down.

Ryder has clarified that they have not recovered the wreck, but neither has Russia. Meanwhile, the National Security Council Communications Coordinator John Kirby warned that the recovery seems impossible. 

“It has not been recovered, and I’m not sure we’re going to be able to recover it. I mean, where it fell into the Black Sea – it’s very, very deep water, so we’re still assessing whether there can be any kind of recovery effort mounted,” said Kirby in an interview on CNN.

Russian SU-27
A Russian SU-27 Jet similar to this one was said to have struck the US drone. Something the Russians deny.

Moreover, the Communications Coordinator has revealed that the incident is “not uncommon”, stating that there have been similar interceptions over the Black Sea in recent weeks. Amid growing tensions, the US Air Force has deemed the incident “reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional.” One can only question.. what are Russia’s true motives here? 

The US Called the Russian Ambassador 

Russian Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, was summoned immediately after the incident. Ned Price, Spokesman State Department, told journalists that America “engaged at high levels with our allies and partners” to discuss the situation.

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Price mentioned that the Russian Ambassador had been called to receive a formal objection over a “brazen violation of international law.” Antonov retorted that his country wants “no confrontation” with America.

“We prefer not to create a situation where we can face unintended clashes or unintended incidents between the Russian Federation and the United States.” In his country’s defence, Antonov reiterated that Russia has informed that the interception space is a zone for “special military operation.”

“How would the US react if a Russian drone came close to New York or San Francisco?” questioned the Russian man. “We have warned not to enter, not to penetrate.”

Russia Refuted the Blame 

Russia’s Defence Ministry has denied claims of causing the incident. It stated that upon detection, the warplanes “scrambled to identify the intruder.”

Furthermore, the Defence Ministry elaborated that the fighter jets did not make contact with the American drone – the MQ-9 entered an unguided flight, lost its altitude, and crashed into the water.

The Russian Ministry also mentioned that the fighter jets “did not use their on-board weapons.” Moreover, it claimed the Reaper was flying with its transponder turned off. Therefore, it was a complete violation of airspace protocol for such military operations.

MQ-9 Reaper Drone

The MQ-9 is a UAV developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The US military uses it for both surveillance and attack operations. Currently, these spy drones operate over the Black Sea to monitor the area.

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The MQ-9 can fly for up to 34 hours and reach a maximum speed of 275 miles per hour. In addition, they can fly as high as 50,000 feet.

A US MQ-9 Reaper Drone
A US MQ-9 Reaper Drone on a combat mission seen here high over Afghanistan.

The MQ-9 Reaper drone is the modified version of the MQ-1 Predator drone. According to the US Air Force, the Reapers are comparatively faster and have better sensing capabilities. Additionally, these spy drones are capable of carrying ammunition.

Nevertheless, a lack of defensive weaponry makes MQ-9 an easy target.