US releases footage of Russian jet crashing into American drone over Black Sea | US military

A remarkable video released by the Pentagon shows the moments before a Russian fighter crashed into a $32m US Reaper drone after spraying it with jet fuel on Tuesday morning over the Black Sea.

The declassified footage shows an Su-27 Flanker jet making two exceptionally close passes of the uncrewed drone, spraying fuel in front of it, a harassment tactic that US experts say has not been seen before.

On the second pass, the Su-27 moves so close to the MQ-9 Reaper that the image briefly becomes pixelated, indicating a collision had happened.

When the camera recovers, a bent propeller wing can be seen – damage sufficiently serious for the US Air Force to force the drone down. It fell into international waters in the Black Sea, and senior Russian officials have said they hope to salvage it.

US officials briefed that the footage “absolutely confirms” there was a collision and dumping of fuel – but they added it did not confirm the Russian pilot’s intent and whether it was intended to strike the Reaper.


Russia has denied US accusations that its jets acted recklessly in the incident – and has denied its aircraft came into contact with the drone. It insists the drone fell from the sky after making a “sharp manoeuvre” and that it was flying towards Crimea, which Russia has occupied since 2014.

The video was released with the following caption: “Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a US Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft operating within international airspace over the Black Sea on 14 March 2023. Russian Su-27s 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.”

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Justin Bronk, an aviation analyst with the Rusi thinktank, said: “The footage does show two extremely close and unprofessional passes at significant angles of attack, which is in line with the US claims that the Russian pilot involved in the collision was flying recklessly and accidentally collided with the MQ-9.”

On Wednesday, the Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, called the incident a provocation. “We are concerned about the unacceptable activity of the US military in the immediate vicinity of our borders,” he said, accusing the US of supplying intelligence to Kyiv. The US had summoned the ambassador over the incident.

The MQ-9 Reaper is a large remotely piloted aircraft, 11 metres long with a wingspan of over 22 metres, and can be armed if deemed necessary. The US Air Force says its primary use is as “an intelligence-collection asset” but it has frequently been used in drone strikes against targets in the ongoing war on terror.

The defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, and joint chiefs of staff chairman, Gen Mark Milley, have spoken to their Russian counterparts about the destruction of the drone.

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