New Delhi: Two Russian Su-27 jets on Tuesday (March 14, 2023) carried out what the US described as a “reckless” intercept of the American spy drone while flying in international air space. The US military said the Russian fighter jets dumped fuel on the MQ-9 drone — possibly trying to blind or damage it — and flew in front of it in unsafe manoeuvres. After around 30 to 40 minutes, at 7:03 am (0603 GMT), one of the jets then collided with the drone and caused it to crash into the Black Sea, the US military said. Russia has not recovered the drone and the jet was likely damaged, the Pentagon said.
“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,” US Air Force General James Hecker, who oversees the US Air Force in the region, said in a statement.
“In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash,” he added.
Russia’s defence ministry, however, denied that its aircraft had come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which it said had crashed after “sharp manoeuvring”.
It said the drone had been detected near the Crimea peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
“The Russian fighters did not use their onboard weapons, did not come into contact with the UAV and returned safely to their home airfield,” the defence ministry said.
It, notably, was the first such direct encounter between the two world powers since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Ambassador to US Anatoly Antonov was summoned by the US State Department to discuss what happened over the Black Sea.
Antonov said his meeting was “constructive” and the issue of possible “consequences” for Moscow was not raised, RIA state news agency reported.
“As for us, we do not want any confrontation between the United States and Russia. We are in favour of building pragmatic relations for the benefit of the Russian and American peoples,” Antonov was quoted as saying.