Washington DC, 15 March 2023 (TDI): On Tuesday morning, a US Air Force MQ-9 drone was hit by a Russian SU-27 fighter jet in an “unsafe and unprofessional intercept” over the Black Sea.

The drone crashed into international waters after one of the Russian pilots clipped its propeller. The incident occurred while the US drone was conducting routine operations in international airspace.

The US European Command issued a statement condemning the incident and expressed concern over the dangerous and aggressive actions by Russian aircrew while interacting with US and allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea.

Furthermore, it stressed that such actions could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation between the countries.

“Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless manner.

This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional,” stated James B. Hecker who serves as the Commander of United States Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa, and Allied Air Command.

“The MQ-9 aircraft was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” he added. The collision damaged the Russian fighter, but it was able to land according to reports.

US take on the incident

National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan briefed President Joe Biden on the incident, and State Department officials plan to speak directly with their Russian counterparts to express concern about this unsafe and unprofessional intercept.

While the drone was likely conducting surveillance for Ukraine, Notre Dame Law School professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, an expert on international law and the use of force, advised the US not to respond with direct force against Russia.

She explained that Russia’s disruption of the MQ-9 Reaper was within the laws of armed conflict, even if Russia had better ways of doing so.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Russia over the war in Ukraine, with the US sending over $30 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

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In the conclusion, the US military and European Command assured that the US and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace in coordination with the applicable host nation and international laws.