A Russian fighter jet on Tuesday dumped gasoline on an American drone over the Black Sea then collided with it, inflicting the drone to crash, the US navy mentioned.
US European Command mentioned two Russian Su-27 fighters intercepted the unmanned MQ-9 Reaper over worldwide waters and one clipped its propeller.
“Several occasions earlier than the collision, the Su-27s dumped gasoline on and flew in entrance of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional method,” it mentioned.
The assertion confirmed an earlier report by AFP of an incident involving a US-made drone within the space.
Russian intercepts over the Black Sea have been frequent, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby advised journalists in Washington, however this one “is noteworthy due to how unsafe and unprofessional it was, certainly reckless that it was”.
NATO diplomats in Brussels confirmed the incident, however mentioned they didn’t anticipate it to instantly escalate into an additional confrontation.
A Western navy supply, talking to AFP on situation of anonymity, mentioned that diplomatic channels between Russia and the United States might assist restrict any fall-out.
“To my thoughts, diplomatic channels will mitigate this,” the supply mentioned.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February final yr has led to heightened fears of a direct confrontation between Moscow and the Western NATO navy alliance, which has been arming Kyiv to assist it defend itself.
News of a missile strike in jap Poland in November final yr briefly brought about alarm earlier than Western navy sources concluded that it was a Ukrainian air defence missile that had malfunctioned, not a Russian one.
There was no fast response from Moscow.
– ‘Unsafe and unprofessional’ –
The United States makes use of MQ-9 Reapers for each surveillance and strikes, and has lengthy operated over the Black Sea maintaining a tally of Russian naval forces.
“Our MQ-9 plane was conducting routine operations in worldwide airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian plane, leading to a crash and full lack of the MQ-9,” mentioned US Air Force General James Hecker, commander of US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa.
“In reality, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians practically brought about each plane to crash.
“US and allied plane will proceed to function in worldwide airspace and we name on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” he added.
The US assertion mentioned that pilots had introduced the Reaper down in worldwide waters, whereas the US Naval Institute mentioned it had crashed off the coast of Odessa in southeast Ukraine.
Several US Reapers have been misplaced in recent times, together with to hostile hearth.
One was shot down in 2019 over Yemen with a surface-to-air missile fired by Huthi rebels, the US Central Command mentioned on the time.
According to media experiences, a US MQ-9 crashed in Libya in 2022, whereas one other went down throughout a coaching train in Romania earlier in the identical yr.
Reapers may be armed with Hellfire missiles in addition to laser-guided bombs and may fly for greater than 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres) at altitudes of as much as 15,000 metres (50,000 toes), in accordance with the US Air Force.
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