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Two Drones Collide in the Black Sea: Pentagon Releases Footage


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The Pentagon has released a video it claims shows an “unsafe” and “unprofessional” interception of Russian fighter jets when one of them hit a US drone over the Black Sea.

Russia has denied responsibility for the crash, which the United States says left its drone out of control and has demanded it be shot down in the Black Sea.

The declassified 42-second video — which the US military says has been edited for a long time — shows the Su-27 loading up on an MQ-9 propeller, shooting streams of fuel as it passes in an apparent attempt to harass the drone. .

The Su-27 makes another pass, again dumping fuel as it does so.

The video was then interrupted — a cut that the US military said lasted 60 seconds due to the drone being struck by a Russian aircraft. When the feed returns, part of the drone’s propeller is missing.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it scrambled planes on Tuesday after spotting a US drone over the Black Sea, but denied causing the crash, saying the plane had lost control.

The Pentagon said the drone was on a routine mission when it was intercepted — a term for an aircraft making optical or electronic contact with another aircraft — in a “reckless” and “unprofessional” manner.

The incident escalated tensions between Moscow and the Western allies, already heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but top security officials from the United States and Russia are in touch.

Maintaining contacts

The Pentagon said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday, while the Russian Defense Ministry said General Staff Valery Gerasimov spoke to General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“We take any possibility of escalation very seriously, which is why I think it’s important to keep the lines of communication open,” Austin said after his call with Shoigu.

“I think it’s really important that we can pick up the phone and interact with each other. And I think that will help prevent misjudgment in the future.”

It’s unclear if the collision was done on purpose, Milley said on Wednesday, though the “aggressive behavior” was premeditated.

Russia plans to try to recover the downed craft but was not sure if these efforts would be successful.

Milley said the drone most likely crashed and sank in an area with water depths between 4,000 and 5,000 feet (1,200-1,500 metres).

Even if Russia managed to recover the wreckage, he said, the United States had taken “mitigating measures” to protect sensitive information, and is “confident that whatever was valuable is no longer valuable.”

The United States uses MQ-9s for both surveillance and strikes and has long operated over the Black Sea, monitoring the Russian Navy.

Several drones have gone missing in recent years, including one that US Central Command said was shot down over Yemen by a surface-to-air missile in 2019.

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