Washington publishes photos of the interception of its drone by the Russians

The US military released footage Thursday of Russian forces intercepting their drone over the Black Sea, showing a fighter jet spraying fuel on the plane, which can be seen later with damaged propeller blades .

The declassified video sequence released on the website of the US Armed Forces Europe Command lasts 42 seconds and shows a Russian Sukhoi-27 passing directly over the drone twice, after coming from behind.

The Reaper MQ-9 fell into international waters after being hit by a Russian fighter, according to Washington. Moscow acknowledges the interception of the plane by its fighters but denies any contact that may have led to the crash.

It was “a reckless and dangerous action,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken while visiting Addis Ababa.

On the first pass there is no visible jerk between the two devices and nothing that justifies the drone falling.

The maneuver “disrupted the video transmission”, comments the US Army in Europe site, which notes that the drone’s propeller “can be seen and remains intact”.

During the second pass, without establishing whether it is the same predator or another, the maneuver is similar but the device passes closer to the drone.

Image transmission is then interrupted for 60 seconds. When it restarts, “the propeller can be seen again and we can see that one of the blades is damaged”, noted the US Air Force.

– “Frankly Borderline” –

“The maneuver is clearly borderline,” a European military fighter pilot told AFP, stressing that, according to generally applicable rules, interceptions in the sky by a fighter are “parallel” to the aircraft. Goes and never at such a close distance.

On Tuesday, General James Hecker, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, said an MQ-9 Reaper performing “routine operations in international airspace” was intercepted by Su-27 fighters and then “shot down by a Russian aircraft”. Granted, resulting in the accident. and loss” of the drone.

While acknowledging that two fighters had come to intercept the drone, Russia claimed no responsibility for its downing.

A video image released by the US Armed Forces Europe Command on March 16, 2023 shows the propeller of a US Reaper MQ-9 drone intercepted by a Russian fighter (USUCom/AFP – Handout)

It is the first time since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, that a NATO country has admitted to losing equipment it operates in the highly inflammable region.

Moscow claims it wants to capture the drone to prove United States involvement in operations in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said one of the reasons for the incident was the “intensification” of US spying operations.

Washington has indicated, however, that it has taken measures to protect potentially sensitive data still on the device.

US Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said, “We believe that what used to be valuable is no longer valuable.”

The skies over the Black Sea are the scene of very regular interactions between drones and aircraft of NATO countries and the Russian Armed Forces, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine.

The US uses Reaper MQ-9 drones for surveillance, intelligence gathering and strikes. According to US Central Command, several aircraft have been lost in recent years, including one to a surface-to-air missile over Yemen in 2019.

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