Washington has summoned Russia’s ambassador to the US to the State Department to register its “strong protest” after a Russian fighter jet struck an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, leading US forces to bring the drone down in international seas.
“What we saw, again, were fighter aircraft dropping gasoline in front of this UAV and then going so near to the aircraft that it actually destroyed the propeller on the MQ-9,” said Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary.
He continued that they were forced to practically crash it into the Black Sea because of the damage.
What is MQ-9
The military contractor General Atomics makes large unmanned aircraft called the MQ-9 Reaper. A two-person team includes a pilot and an aircrew member who controls sensors and remotely directs weaponry controls the aircraft.
The aircraft has a wingspan of more than 22 meters and is 11 meters long. The US air force says its principal function is as “an intelligence-collection asset” while also noting its “unique potential to perform” precise strikes against “high-value and time-sensitive targets.” A Reaper can carry up to 16 Hellfire missiles or the payload of an Apache chopper.
Reapers are excellent for surveillance missions since, like other UAVs, they can fly to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15 kilometers) and stay over targets for around 24 hours. Importantly, this takes place with a flying crew based in the United States, out of harm’s way.
The Russian intercept was labeled “reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional” by the US military, which also said that aggressive actions by Russian aircrew “are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the US, was later called into the state department. He had previously defended the Russian pilots’ actions by asserting that the US would have responded similarly if the circumstances had been reversed.
In a news briefing, US diplomatic spokesman Ned Price branded the act a “brazen violation of international law.”
He continued by saying that the Russian Foreign Ministry had also received a message from the American envoy in Moscow conveying Washington’s objections.
According to the US military, the drone was forced to crash after colliding with a Russian Su-27 jet over the Black Sea.
It said one of the Russian fighters “struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters,” adding that several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in “a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner.”
In addition to being dangerous and improper, it also showed a lack of skill.
Photo: USAF MQ-9 Reaper droneU.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/STAFF SGT. N.B.