US releases video of alleged drone collision

This handout image taken from video released by U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) on March 16, 2023, shows onboard footage from a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 drone as it is approached by a Russian SU-27 aircraft jettissoning fuel, over The Black Sea on March 14, 2023. Moscow said that it would try to retrieve the wreckage of a US military drone that crashed over the Black Sea in a confrontation Washington blamed on two Russian fighter jets. Russia also warned that it would react “proportionately” to any future US “provocations” as tensions simmered and Moscow denied its Su-27 military aircraft had clipped the propeller of the unmanned Reaper drone. Handout / USEUCOM / AFP

(AFP) — The United States on Thursday released a video it said shows an “unsafe” and “unprofessional” intercept by Russian military jets when one struck an American drone, damaging its propeller.

Russia has denied responsibility for the incident, which the United States says left its drone uncontrollable and required it to be brought down in the Black Sea.

The declassified 42-second video — which the US military says has been edited for length but is still sequential — shows an Su-27 jet bearing down on the propeller-driven MQ-9 drone, releasing streams of fuel as it passes. 

An Su-27 makes another pass, again dumping fuel is it does so.

The video is then interrupted — a cut the US military said lasts for 60 seconds as a result of a Russian jet striking the drone. When the feed returns, part of the drone’s propeller is missing.

The incident has further ratcheted up tensions between Moscow and Western allies, already soaring over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that it was unclear whether the collision was done on purpose, though the “aggressive behavior” was intentional.

Moscow has said it would try to retrieve the wreckage, but Milley said the drone likely broke up and sank in an area where the water is 4,000-5,000 feet (1,200-1,500 meters) deep.

Even if Russia was able to recover the wreckage, the United States took “mitigating measures” to protect sensitive information.

“We are quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value,” Milley said.

The United States uses MQ-9s for both surveillance and strikes and has long operated over the Black Sea, keeping an eye on Russian naval forces.

Several of the drones have been lost in recent years, including one that the US Central Command said was shot down over Yemen with a surface-to-air missile in 2019.

© Agence France-Presse