U.S. European Command issued a statement Tuesday evening (local time) about an incident involving two Russian SU-27 aircraft harassing and attacking a unmanned U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea Tuesday morning. The Russians dumped fuel on the drone, flew in front of it and eventually collided with it, breaking a propeller and forcing U.S. controllers to crash the drone down into the sea. The incident is the first reported clash between the U.S. and Russian militaries in the Ukraine war. (Joe Biden has been briefed. Update at end of article.)
Image source: Wikipedia.
Image source: Aviation Geek Club via Wikimedia Commons.
The statement was released after AFP reported an “incident” involving a U.S. made drone over the Black Sea.
Complete text of the statement:
Russian aircraft collides into US unmanned system in international waters
Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft that was operating within international airspace over the Black Sea, March 14, 2023.
By U.S. AIR FORCES EUROPE – AIR FORCES AFRICA Ramstein Air Base, Germany Mar 14, 2023
Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft that was operating within international airspace over the Black Sea today.
At approximately 7:03 AM (CET), 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. 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 demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
“U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker added.
This incident follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea. These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa routinely fly aircraft throughout Europe over sovereign territory and throughout international airspace in coordination with applicable host nation and international laws. In order to bolster collective European defense and security, these missions support Allied, partner, and U.S. national objectives.
UPDATE: National Security Council spokesman John Kirby spoke to reporters on a conference call about the incident, telling them that Joe Biden (in California on official business) had been briefed Tuesday morning.
Scripps reporter Sasha Ingber tweeted on the briefing, “Earlier this morning, Biden was briefed on a Russian fighter jet forcing down a US drone, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says. He says it’s not uncommon for there to be intercepts by Russian aircraft of US aircraft over the Black Sea, but this one was “reckless.”…Kirby says the State Department will be speaking directly with their Russian counterparts and expressing concerns over “this unsafe and unprofessional intercept.”
Kirby says the State Department will be speaking directly with their Russian counterparts and expressing concerns over "this unsafe and unprofessional intercept."
— Sasha Ingber (@SashaIngber) March 14, 2023
Daily Mail reporter Rob Crilly also tweeted about the briefing, “White House security spokesman John Kirby on Russian aircraft taking down US drone ‘there have been even in just recent weeks, there have been other intercepts. But this one obviously is noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional … indeed reckless that it was’…’It is the State Department’s intention to reach out and expressly and directly make our concerns known about this incident with Russian officials’ Doesn’t know if this has happened yet…Kirby adds that the US doesn’t have to check with Moscow before flying over Black Sea We ‘don’t need to have some sort of check in with the Russians before we fly in international airspace. There’s no requirement to do that.'”
'It is the State Department's intention to reach out and expressly and directly make our concerns known about this incident with Russian officials'
Doesn't know if this has happened yet
— Rob Crilly (@robcrilly) March 14, 2023
Kirby adds that the US doesn't have to check with Moscow before flying over Black Sea
We 'don't need to have some sort of check in with the Russians before we fly in international airspace. There's no requirement to do that.'
— Rob Crilly (@robcrilly) March 14, 2023