U.S. Releases Video of Russian Jet Crash With Drone

March 16, 2023

U.S. European Command has released declassified video taken by the MQ-9 Reaper drone at the moment a Russian Su-27 fighter jet crashed into it in international airspace over the Black Sea.

The video, from Tuesday, can be seen here.

The footage was taken by a camera on the drone’s underside and shows two different passes by the jets to spray the drone, then the second one collides with the drone’s rear propeller. 

The video further shows the Russian fighter jet dumping fuel before it clipped and damaged the drone’s propeller.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had said Wednesday that military authorities were going through the video and still photos of the incident to ascertain what could be publicly released. However, he added, “We remain confident in the facts that we have conveyed thus far. And that will not change in terms of what happened and how it happened.”

Both Austin and  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the aggressive moves by the Russian jets were part of a recent “pattern of behavior” by the Russians.

“The fact that we operate in proximity to each other is not particularly unusual,” said Milley. “And we do try to establish the confliction channels in order to ensure that our forces are physically separated and we don’t have incidents like this. But there is a pattern of behavior recently where there’s a little bit more aggressive actions being conducted by the Russians. We haven’t completed our analysis as to why that’s happening.”

He asserted that there was “no question” but that the aggressive behavior by the Russians that led to the collision “was intentional.” Whether the actual collision was intentional, Milley, like Austin, said, “Not sure yet.”

Austin said he had spoken with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Shoigu, after the collision though he would not go into detail about what was said during their phone call. Milley said he had plans to speak with his Russian Counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, but had not done so yet. 

“The United States will fly and operate wherever international law allows,” Austin stated. He added that the U.S. will take “any potential for escalation very seriously and that’s why I believe it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.”

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