This is the moment a Russian Su-27 fighter jet flew into a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea.
Drone camera footage released by the Pentagon today captures the moment a Russian fighter clipped its propeller and dumped fuel over it in international airspace on 14 March 2023.
US forces had to bring the $32mn drone down in international waters on Tuesday night after the fighter poured fuel on the unmanned aerial vehicle and then struck its propeller, sparking a race between Moscow and Washington to recover it.
The new footage follows Russian claims its jet did not make contact with the drone, instead blaming ‘sharp maneuvering’ for the crash.
This is the first direct confrontation between Russia and the US since the start of the war in Ukraine, occurring close to Crimea.
Video shows the Russian fighter approaching the American drone from behind and beginning to release fuel as it passes – the Pentagon said
Released footage shows the moment a Russian fighter dumped fuel on an American drone
The 42-second clip shows the UAV come into contact with a Russian jet.
One of two Russian jets flying over international waters pulls up on the drone, approaching from behind.
The jet is shown to dump fuel as it passes. Fuel dumping is usually used by aircraft in emergency situations to lose weight.
The UAV’s camera suffers damage before it is forced to make an emergency landing in international waters below.
Moscow previously said it would work to retrieve the wreckage of the $32million drone in what would be a propaganda coup for Vladimir Putin, after earlier warning that it will ‘consider any action with US weaponry as openly hostile’.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby previously confirmed the US was reviewing ‘imagery’ collected from the region.
He also said the UAV may never be recovered from the crash site, admitting that the Reaper wreckage is still in the Black Sea.
Kirby said that US officials told Moscow to be more careful when flying in international air space around American assets.
Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, meanwhile accused the US of committing an ‘act of provocation’ after the $32 million US surveillance drone was intercepted by two Su-27 fighter jets in international airspace.
Antonov warned Washington it must stop ‘hostile’ flights near his country’s border – or face the consequences.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters: ‘We know that the intercept was intentional. We know that the aggressive behavior was intentional.’
It was unclear whether the collision itself was deliberate.
Even so, the incident over international waters has triggered fears that such a mistake or misunderstanding could spark an escalation in hostilities.
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said he spoke to his Russian counterpart on Wednesday in their first call since October.
‘I just got off the phone with my Russian counterpart, Minister Shoigu,’ Austin said at a Pentagon press briefing.
‘As I’ve said repeatedly, it’s important that great powers be models of transparency and communication, and the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.’
Russia said it made clear in the call that it sees things differently and that U.S. aerial operations in the region are a threat.
‘It was noted that flights by American strategic lethal drones by the Crimea coastline were provocative in nature and created pre-conditions for an escalation of the situation in the Black Sea zone,’ the defense ministry statement said after Shoigu’s telephone conversation with Austin.
Earlier the Kremlin said it would try to retrieve the remains of the drone.
The plane begins to dump fuel on the drone before the camera suffers damage
The drone’s camera stabilises after the SU-27 passes overhead, clipping its propeller
Video shows damage to the UAV after the jet dumped fuel over it in the Black Sea
According to US officials the MQ-9 Reaper drone was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 jets that dumped fuel on top of the drone before clipping its propeller, forcing it to crash
‘I don’t know whether we will be able to retrieve it or not, but that it has to be done. And we’ll certainly work on it. I hope, of course, successfully,” Kremlin Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev told the Rossiya-1 TV channel,’ according to Reuters.
However, Milley played down the prospect of losing sensitive technology. He said it had gone down in four or five thousand feet of water.
‘We don’t have any ships there. But we do have a lot of allies and friends in the area that will work through recovery operations,’ he said.
‘That’s U.S. property, and we’ll leave it at that at this point.
‘But it probably broke up. There’s probably not a lot to recover, frankly,
‘As far as the loss of anything sensitive … intelligence etc … as normal we would take — and we did take mitigating measures — so we are quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value.’
The Sukhoi Su-27 is a Soviet twin-engine fighter in operation since 1977.
It is used by the Russian Air Force, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China, and others.