A Russian Su-27 fighter jet is said to have carried out ‘unsafe and unprofessional’ interception of a US Air Force’s (USAF) MQ-9 uncrewed aerial system (UAS).
This was confirmed by the US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) in a media statement on 14 March.
As per this statement, the incident took place when the USAF’s MQ-9 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) UAS was performing routine operations in the international airspace, above the Black Sea region.
While operating, MQ-9’s propeller was struck by one of the two Russian Su-27 fighter jets at around 7:03am (CET), after which the US forces had to bring down the UAS into the international waters.
USAF general and USAFE-AFAFRICA commander James Hecker said: “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.
“This incident follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with US and allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea.”
According to Pentagon Press Secretary USAF brigadier general Pat Ryder’s statement during a media briefing after the incident, the Russian fighter plane was able to land safely, however, it may have suffered some damage.
On 14 March, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, during a media briefing, also confirmed that Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, was summoned to explain Russia’s position on the case.
In his response, Antonov said that the US’ uncrewed plane was ‘deliberately and provocatively’ moving towards the Russian airspace with its transponders switched off, which led to the violation of norms of operating in international airspace.
He stressed that Russian aircraft did not use onboard weapon systems and only scrambled to identify intruder without coming in close contact with the UAS.
Antonov added: “The unacceptable actions of the United States military in the close proximity to our borders are cause for concern. We are well aware of the missions such reconnaissance and strike drones are used for.”