The American unmanned MQ-9 aircraft which was brought down in the Black Sea yesterday after an encounter with a Russian Su-27 fighter jet had taken off from its base in Romania, states a senior US military official quoted by The New York Times.
Although it could carry Hellfire missiles, the drone was unarmed, the same source said. It took off from its base in Romania on Tuesday morning for a routine reconnaissance mission when two Russian jets intercepted it.
According to a statement from the US Department of Defense, one of the two Russian Su-27 jets that intercepted the unmanned MQ-9 aircraft struck the drone’s propeller, causing US forces to bring it down into international waters of the Black Sea early Tuesday morning.
„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”, said US Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander, US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, quoted in the statement.
„This incident follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with US and allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea, reports Romania Insider.
These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation,” Hecker added. He also said that the incident most likely caused damage to the Russian aircraft, although it was able to land.
Russia has denied the incident and said that its fighter jets did not come into contact with a US drone that crashed into the Black Sea. „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 Russian Ministry of Defense said, quoted by Reuters.