The US Department of Defense published a short video of a Russian fighter jet performing an unsafe maneuver while intercepting a US Air Force MQ-9 “Reaper” drone that crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday. American officials have criticized Russia for operating their aircraft in a way deemed “unsafe and unprofessional.”
In the 42-second clip, the Russian Su-27 can be seen approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone while it starts to release fuel. This action was likely intended to discourage the surveillance drone’s presence in international airspace over the Black Sea and obstruct its advanced sensors.
USAF wrote in a statement that the Russian fighter jet “dumped fuel upon and struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters.”
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the drone posed no threat to anyone and was operating in international airspace.
“The United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows, and it is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Russia has denied that its pilots acted unprofessionally or struck the drone’s propeller.
The Russian Defense Ministry spoke with Austin about the incident and said the drone ignored flight restrictions in the area posted by the Kremlin. There was also a report the drone was flying with no broadcasting transponder and headed toward the Russian border.
Russia pointed out the incident is due to “the intensification of intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation.”
Although there was no loss of life, the incident outlines the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has sparked concerns that it may escalate and might lead to direct confrontation between Russia and the US. This comes as the spring offensive is underway.