A United States drone flying above the Black Sea was struck by a Russian jet.
The MQ-9 drone was reportedly flying in international airspace around 7 AM when its propellor was struck by a Russian fighter jet.
The two Su-27 fighter jets reportedly cast fuel on and flew in front of the American drone in a “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” according to a statement from the U.S. European Command.
“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 General James B. Hecker, commander, US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
The organization said the incident was part of a “pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace.”
“These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation,” said USEUCOM.
This was the first intercept above the Black Sea that has resulted in a crash. The MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aircraft used to conduct surveillance at high altitudes.
John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, stressed that the U.S. would continue to operate in the airspace above the Black Sea.
“If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying and operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, then that message will fail, because that is not going to happen,” he said at a March 14 press conference, per Axios. “I want to stress that this MQ-9 was operating in international airspace over international waters, and posed a threat to nobody.”
“But this one obviously is noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional, indeed how reckless it was, and causing the downing of one of our aircraft,” he added. “So, it’s unique in that regard.”
According to the BBC, the U.S. and the United Kingdom have increased their reconnaissance and surveillance flights over the last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia has previously denounced American intelligence flights near the Crimean Peninsula and has said Kyiv’s unwillingness to take part in peace talks proposed by China is prolonging the conflict.
“We must achieve our goals,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, per The Charlotte Observer. “Given the current stance of the Kyiv regime, now it’s only possible by military means.”