The United States military has released footage of a collision between a Russian fighter jet and one of its drones over the Black Sea. According to the US, the collision damaged the large drone, and it had to be brought down into the water near Ukraine on Tuesday. While Russia denied its Su-27 fighter jet clipped the propeller of the drone, the video appears to support the American version of events.
The Pentagon’s decision to release the footage was intended to verify its version of events. Although the BBC did not see the events before or after the collision, the US initially claimed that the confrontation lasted approximately 30-40 minutes.
On Wednesday night, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the US remained confident in the facts that had been conveyed so far. He added that the Pentagon was examining what video could be released, and it is not uncommon for military forces to take some time to declassify video footage before releasing it to the public.
Previously, Mr. Austin had described Russia’s actions as dangerous and reckless, and the edited video released appears to support this assessment. The footage from a camera fitted under the fuselage of the surveillance drone shows a Russian SU-27 making two extremely close passes, while releasing what appears to be fuel as it approaches.
During the first pass, the camera lens appears to become obscured. The second pass is even closer and disrupts the video feed from the remotely piloted aircraft. When the video returns, a blade of the drone’s propeller at the back of the aircraft can be seen bent out of shape.
Russia claims that the drone was approaching its territory, but the video shows only sea, sky, and clouds. The US maintains that the drone was being operated in international airspace.
In a statement released hours after the crash, the US said Russian jets dumped fuel on the drone several times before the collision.
Pentagon spokesman Brig Gen Pat Ryder told reporters the drone was “unflyable and uncontrollable”, adding the collision also likely damaged the Russian aircraft.
Russia’s defence ministry said the drone crashed after a “sharp manoeuvre”, and that it was flying with its transponders (communication devices) turned off.
The Kremlin has not yet responded to the release of the US video.
General Atomics MQ–9 Reaper
The MQ-9 Reaper is a remotely piloted medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle primarily used by the United States Air Force and other countries for surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike missions. It is a multi-mission platform that features advanced sensors, communication systems, and payload capacities. With a wingspan of 66 feet and a length of 36 feet, the MQ-9 is capable of flying at high altitudes for up to 27 hours and can carry up to 3,750 pounds of external stores, including weaponry. Its advanced sensors and communication systems allow it to provide real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities to ground forces and other decision-makers.
- Powerplant: one 900shp Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop
- Length: 36ft (10.97m)
- Height: 12ft (3.66m)
- Wingspan: 69ft 3½in (21.12m)
- Maximum take-off weight: 10,500lb (4,760kg)
- Maximum speed: 250kt (463km/h)
- Endurance (clean): 20 hours
- Endurance (with weapons): more than 12 hours
- Service ceiling (clean): more than 50,000ft
- Service ceiling (with weapons): more than 30,000ft
- Armament: two 500lb GBU-12 laser-guided bombs and four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles