Updated Mar 15, 2023 - World

Russian jet collides with U.S. drone over Black Sea

MQ-9 drone

An MQ-9 Reaper drone in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in November 2022. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

A Russian jet crashed into a U.S. drone above the Black Sea on Tuesday, forcing the U.S. to bring the drone down.

Driving the news: The incident is part of a "pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace," U.S. European Command said in a press release.

Zoom in: The collision occurred when one of two Russian Su-27 jets struck the propeller of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, resulting in a “complete loss” of the unmanned aircraft, U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker said in the press release.

  • Before the crash, the jets had “dumped fuel on and flew in front” the drone, in a manner the U.S. military described as “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional.”

The big picture: When asked about the collision at a press briefing Tuesday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said President Biden had already been briefed on the matter.

  • Such intercepts between U.S. and Russian aircraft over the Black Sea are not uncommon, but Tuesday's collision was unique because of how "unsafe and unprofessional" it was, Kirby noted.
  • "I want to stress that this MQ-9 was operating in international airspace over international waters, and posed a threat to nobody," he said, adding that the incident would not deter the U.S. from operating in international airspace over the Black Sea.

Worth noting: State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on a call Tuesday that the U.S. would summon Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to Washington, in the wake of the incident, Reuters reported.

  • Antonov said in a statement on Telegram that the U.S. drone had been moving "deliberately and provocatively towards the Russian territory" but denied that the Russian jets had "come into contact" with the drone.
  • "We perceive any actions involving the use of American weapons and military equipment as openly hostile," he added.

State of play: The U.S. has been flying MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are capable of intelligence collection and surveillance, over the Black Sea since before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, CNN reported.

  • Russia did not immediately respond to news of the collision, though it has voiced concern about U.S. intelligence flights near the Crimean peninsula in the past, per AP.
  • Kirby told "CNN This Morning" Wednesday that the drone had not yet been recovered and may never be recovered.
  • "We did the best we could to minimize any intelligence value that might come from somebody else getting their hands on that drone," Kirby noted.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct that just one jet collided with the drone. It has also been updated with additional details throughout.

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