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Russian fighter jets crash US Reaper drone after dumping fuel on it, hitting propeller over Black Sea

An MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base, NV., June 25, 2015. (Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/U.S. Air Force)
March 14, 2023

A U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone had to be downed in the Black Sea on Tuesday after being harassed by two Russian fighter jets, one of which struck the drone’s propeller and nearly crashed.

U.S. European Command said U.S. forces had to “bring the MQ-9 down” in international waters after the propeller strike around 7:03 a.m. local time. Leading up to the collision, the Russian Su-27 jets had dumped fuel on the drone and flown in front of it “in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner.”

The Reaper drone was a complete loss, according to the command, which stated that the incident “demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.” 

The commander of U.S. air power in Europe, Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, said the Russians’ actions “nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”

The command stated that the incident “follows a pattern.”

“These aggressive actions by the Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation,” the command stated.

The Black Sea is to the south of Ukraine, which the U.S. has given billions of dollars in arms in the past year to defend against the ongoing Russian invasion. 

The U.S. has not publicly announced any Reaper drone provisions to Ukraine, though its manufacturer, General Atomics, recently offered to sell Ukraine two of the drones for $1, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Hecker said the drone was “conducting routine operations in international airspace” when the Russian jets intercepted it. 

“U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker added. 

The incident comes less than a month after U.S. fighters intercepted four Russian military aircraft near Alaska, one day after another group of Russian warplanes was intercepted near Alaska.