A Russian fighter jet dumped fuel on a U.S. drone and later collided with the American craft over the Black Sea on Tuesday, forcing U.S. personnel to bring down the drone in international waters and prompting Pentagon officials to blast the Russian side as “unsafe and unprofessional.”
Defense Department officials said two Russian Su-27 planes tried to intercept the U.S. MQ-9 drone that was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea. The propeller of one of the Su-27 aircraft struck the U.S. drone, forcing American crews to bring the drone down at sea.
Before the collision, officials said that “the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner.” U.S. officials said the conduct of the Su-27s demonstrates an apparent “lack of competence” on the Russian side.
“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,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
The general added, “U.S. and allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace, and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely.”
U.S. officials said Tuesday’s incident is the latest in a string of unsafe, unprofessional actions in the Black Sea region. The sea is a vital area for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.
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The White House said President Biden had been briefed on the incident. White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters it was not uncommon for Russian military planes to shadow U.S. drones over the Black Sea, but added, “This one is noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional it was.”
The U.S. European Command said in a statement warned that “these aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”