The MQ-9 Reaper UAV went down in the Black Sea after two Su-27s appeared nearby

Su-27 demonstrates its armament to American pilots. A video shot by a US Air Force pilot in 2016.

The U.S. accused Russian Su-27 pilots of “unsafe and unprofessional” intercepting an MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea near west of Crimea, causing the American aircraft to crash into the sea. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan briefed President Biden about the incident, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told USA Today. He said Russian pilots had intercepted U.S. warplanes in recent weeks, but not as “recklessly.”

The U.S. European Command said in a statement that around 7:03 a.m. CET, one of the two Su-27 aircraft that took off to intercept the MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance UAV struck the propeller of the drone, causing the MQ-9 to crash in international waters of the Black Sea. “Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dropped fuel and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsafe and unprofessional manner. This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to insecurity and unprofessionalism,” Ramstein said.

Guardian graphic. Source: the Institute for the Study of War with AEI’s Critical Threats Project. *Areas ISW assesses Russian forces have operated in or launched attacks against but do not control.

“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and shot down by a Russian aircraft, resulting in the downing and total loss of the MQ-9,” said Air Force Gen. James Hecker, commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe and Africa. – In fact, it was an unsafe and unprofessional action by the Russians that nearly brought both planes down,” he was quoted as saying by USA Today.

Pentagon spokesman and Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder told USA Today that Russian warplanes intercepted the drone and pressurized it for half an hour before it went down. He said one of the Su-27s was damaged in the collision, but was able to land safely at its home airfield.

The Russian Defense Ministry commented on the incident over the Black Sea involving the destruction of an American reconnaissance UAV that was carrying out routine operations in the vicinity of Russian Crimea.

“On the morning of March 14 this year, a flight of an American MQ-9 UAV in the direction of the State Border of the Russian Federation was detected over the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula by Russian Air Force airspace control facilities.

The flight of an unmanned aerial vehicle was carried out with its transponders turned off in violation of the boundaries of the area of temporary airspace use established for the purpose of a special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international norms,” the Russian military department said in a statement.

To identify the aircraft, Su-27 fighter jets from the air defense forces on duty were in the air. “As a result of sharp maneuvering around 9:30 (Moscow time), the MQ-9 drone went into unguided flight with loss of altitude and collided with the water surface,” the statement noted.

The Defense Ministry stressed that Russian fighters did not use on-board weapons and did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle. After completing the flight mission, the planes returned safely to their home airfield.

According to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, State Department officials plan to speak directly with their Russian counterparts to express concern about the incident with the American UAV.

Notre Dame Law School professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, an expert on international law and the use of force, believes the U.S. should not respond directly to Russia’s actions in what happened. According to her, even though the MQ-9 was “monitoring Ukraine,” its destruction by the Russian Air Force falls under the laws of armed conflict, even if Russia has better ways to counter U.S. reconnaissance UAVs.