On Tuesday, over the Black Sea, a U.S. surveillance drone was shot down by Russian military interceptors, and on Thursday, the U.S. military published video of the incident.
The footage depicts a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 dropping fuel as it flies behind and above an American MQ-9 drone.
The U.S. military claims that a second Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter plane crashed into the drone, and the video feed cuts out just as the plane hits the drone. One of the drone’s propeller blades has been bent, and the video feed is restored in the concluding shot.
On the day after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed the incident with his Russian counterpart, the footage was released. Austin told reporters that he had “just gotten off the phone” with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and that the United States would continue to fly and operate wherever international law allowed. He added that Russia had a responsibility to operate its military aircraft safely and professionally.
According to officials, this was the first phone call between the two military leaders since October.
At the same time, Poland agreed to send four Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter aircraft to Kyiv’s forces in the coming days, making it the first NATO member to send fighter jets to Ukraine. Ukraine has requested Western attack aircraft, but the United States and its allies have so far refused to provide them.
The U.S. military claims that the downed MQ-9 drone was “conducting routine operations” when it was intercepted by a pair of Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter planes on Tuesday. After the Russian jet hit the drone’s propeller, U.S. troops shot it down in international waters. It was clear that the interception was planned. The hostile actions were clearly planned. We also know it’s very unprofessional and very unsafe,” General Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Wednesday.
Milley said he was “not sure yet” if the Russian plane’s collision with the drone was accidental or deliberate.
Russia has said it is weighing whether or not to attempt to retrieve the drone from the Black Sea, but U.S. officials claim their operatives were able to remotely erase confidential software on the drone to prevent Russia from collecting secret information.
The Black Sea is under Russian dominance, so the United States does not station any naval vessels there. However, we have many supporters and allies in the region, and we can get through the recovery process. Milley affirmed that the land was American territory.
General Erik Kurilla, another high-ranking American military official, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that “the unprofessional and unsafe behavior of the Russian Air Force” has been on the rise since March 1. According to him, Russia is “trying to be provocative” by sending armed fighter planes over American facilities in Syria.
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