Russian fighter jet intercepts US drone over Black Sea, causes it to crash
A Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepted and struck the propeller of a US military MQ-9 "Reaper" surveillance drone on Tuesday, causing it to crash into the Black Sea, the Pentagon said.
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, US Army General Christopher Cavoli, briefed NATO allies about the incident, which was condemned by the White House and the Pentagon, who warned of the risk of escalation. The State Department said it was summoning Russia's ambassador over the incident.
Two Russian Su-27 jets carried out what the US military described as a reckless intercept of the American spy drone before one of them collided with it at 07:03 AM (CET).
Several times before the collision, the Russian fighter jets dumped fuel on the MQ-9, possibly trying to blind or damage it, and flew in front of the unmanned drone in unsafe maneuvers, the US military 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 U.S. 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."
There was no immediate comment from Moscow, while Russian state media TASS cited US sources in its report of the incident.
The White House said the drone's downing was unique, however, and would be raised directly by the State Department with their Russian counterparts.
"We have been flying over that airspace consistently now for a year, and we're going to continue to do that," said White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.
"We don't need to have some sort of check-in with the Russians before we fly in international airspace. There's no requirement to do that nor do we do it," Kirby added.
The United States will summon Russia's ambassador to Washington over the incident, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
The U.S. ambassador to Moscow has conveyed a strong message to Russia's foreign affairs ministry, Price told reporters.