This handout photo, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, obtained shows an MQ-9 Reaper drone/AFP
PENTAGON: The U.S. military says a Russian fighter jet collided Tuesday with a U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance drone operating within international airspace over the Black Sea, causing the drone to crash.
A U.S. military official told VOA the unmanned U.S. MQ-9 has not yet been recovered. Russia’s defense ministry blamed the drone for the crash and said that its Su-27 jets did not come into contact with the U.S. aircraft.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the United States is summoning the Russian ambassador over the incident.
“We are engaging directly with the Russians, again at senior levels, to convey our strong objections to this unsafe, unprofessional intercept, which caused the downing of the unmanned U.S. aircraft.”
He added that U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy “has conveyed a strong message to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
U.S. President Joe Biden was briefed about the incident, according to White House spokesman John Kirby.
“If the message [from Russia] is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying and operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, then that message will fail because that is not going to happen,” Kirby said in response to a question from VOA.
“We are going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters. The Black Sea belongs to no one nation and we’re going to continue to do what we need to do for our own national security interests in that part of the world.”
According to U.S. European Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in Europe, two Russian Su-27 aircraft “dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner.”
“One of the Russian Su-27 aircraft struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing U.S. forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters. … This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” EUCOM added.
U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said in a press release that the collision had “nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the Russian aircraft likely sustained damage during the collision as well. The intercept lasted for about 30 to 40 minutes before the collision, according to Ryder.
EUCOM called on Russian forces to act “professionally and safely,” while warning that these types of acts are “dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”