The American MQ-9 “Reaper” drone that crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday was captured on spectacular video, according to the U.S. military, which it released on Thursday morning.
The United States has accused Russia of flying its warplane in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner during the encounter close to the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, which Russia holds.
On Wednesday, a top Russian official declared that Moscow would try to find the drone’s wreckage. According to U.S. Army Gen, the unmanned aerial vehicle presumably shattered during the collision.
Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, told reporters that whatever debris was left likely plummeted to a depth of thousands of feet in the Black Sea.
“That’s U.S. property,” Milley said Wednesday at a Pentagon news conference. “There’s probably not a lot to recover, frankly.”
According to a source who spoke with CBS News, the Russians have arrived at the crash site and will likely be able to salvage some of the wreckage, such as metal components. Milley, however, added that the U.S. had taken precautions to ensure that no vital intelligence was lost.
“We are quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value,” he told reporters.
A fighter plane is seen passing by very close in the video taken by an MQ-9 camera on Thursday and published by the Pentagon (above). The fighter jet then makes another pass, purportedly hitting the drone’s propeller this time.
After the apparent impact, the camera view briefly disappears, but it quickly reappears to reveal what the Air Force claimed to be propeller damage.
The MQ-9 had to be brought down by American forces in international waters after the Russian fighter “dumped gasoline upon and impacted the propeller of the MQ-9,” the Air Force said in a statement included with the footage.
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The video released by the U.S. military’s European Command was “edited for length. However, the events are depicted in sequential order,” the statement said.
According to sources from CBS News’ David Martin, the U.S. has ordered its European Command to weigh the risks of an escalation against the intelligence advantages of drone flights inside the restricted area the Russians have declared over the Black Sea.
The United States has already conducted one fly over the crash site to observe Russian search and rescue activities and plans to achieve more. However, it is currently reevaluating its drone operations. The first outlet to report on the test was CNN.
During an interview with reporters last week, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder refused to confirm if the drone was armed and only referred to it as an MQ-9, not a Reaper. Reapers are flown by the U.S. from Europe to the Middle East and Africa for surveillance and strikes.
Alongside Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated on Wednesday that he had spoken with his Russian colleague Sergei Shoigu following the incident over the Black Sea, but he did not elaborate.
“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,” Austin told reporters.
Shoigu, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, told Austin that the collision was caused by “increased [U.S.] intelligence activities against the interests of the Russian Federation” and “non-compliance with the restricted flight zone” Moscow declared amid its ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has claimed as its sovereign territory since 2014, protrudes into the Black Sea off Ukraine’s southern coast.
The Russian ministry said it would react “proportionately” to any more U.S. “provocations” in the region, warning that “flights of American strategic unmanned aerial vehicles off the coast of Crimea are provocative in nature, which creates pre-conditions for an escalation of the situation in the Black Sea zone.”
“Russia is not interested in such a development of events, but it will continue to respond proportionately to all provocations,” the defense ministry said.
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