In an incident that could heighten tensions between Russia and the US, a Russian fighter jet has struck a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea. The MQ-9 Reaper drone was hit by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet, causing its operators to bring it down in international waters. US officials said that the drone was unarmed and flying a typical reconnaissance mission when it was intercepted by two Russian fighter jets about 75 miles southwest of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
The MQ-9 was hit by one of the jets, causing damage to the propeller. US officials accused the Russian forces involved in the incident of behaving dangerously, saying that the Su-27s had “dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner”. The US Department of Defense said that this was the first known physical contact between Russian and US militaries since the start of the war in Ukraine last February.
The incident comes at a time when tensions between Russia and the US are high due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has turned the Black Sea into a battle zone. In response to the incident, US officials said that the Russian ambassador in Washington has been summoned to receive a formal US objection over the drone’s downing. The State Department spokesman called the incident an “unsafe, unprofessional intercept” and a “brazen violation of international law”.
While the downing of the drone was not necessarily an accident, US officials said they did not believe that the Russians intended to clip the propeller of the drone with their plane. The attack on the drone was not necessarily an opening salvo of a broader strategy to harass US or NATO reconnaissance planes.
This incident underscores the ongoing tensions between Russia and the US over Ukraine, and highlights the risks involved in military operations in the region.