Video: The Moment When Russian Su-27 Fighter Jet Crashed Into US Drone

The Russian fighter jet approached the back of the US Air Force surveillance MQ-9 drone, pouring fuel as it came closer and clipping the drone's propeller over the Black Sea.

Russia's Su-27 fighter jet hits US surveillance drone

The Pentagon has released a video showing the very moment a Russian Su-27 fighter jet collided with a US military drone over the Black Sea. The 42-second dramatic video, released by the US European Command (EUCOM) officials on Thursday morning, showed the alleged Russian fighter jet approaching the back of the US Air Force surveillance MQ-9 drone, pouring fuel as it came closer and clipping the drone's propeller in international airspace.

On second approach, the aircraft – either the same one or another Russian fighter jet – that had been shadowing the MQ-9 is seen repeating the same as it struck the drone's propeller, damaging one blade, the US military said.

According to the Pentagon, dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding its optical instruments and driving it out of the area. 

The US military said it ditched the MQ-9 Reaper in the sea after the Russian fighter made an “unsafe intercept” of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

Russia has denied the US allegations that its warplanes struck the drone. Moscow has claimed the unmanned aerial vehicle went down after making a sharp manoeuvre over the sea.

On being asked if Russia would try to recover the drone debris, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the decision was up to the military. “If they consider it necessary to do so in the Black Sea for the benefit of our interests and our security, they will do it.”

Meanwhile, US officials had earlier expressed confidence that nothing of military value would remain from the drone even if Russia managed to retrieve the wreckage. They also left the possibility open to recover the wreckage themselves. However, some officials indicated that the US does not have military ships in the region and thus would not attempt recovery.

The US military’s MQ-9, which has a 66-foot (20-metre) wingspan, includes a ground control station and satellite equipment. It is capable of carrying munitions, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, would not say whether the ditched drone had been armed.

Ryder said the incident occurred at 7:03 am Central European Time (11:33 am IST) over international waters, and well clear of Ukraine, after the Russian jets had flown in the vicinity of the drone for 30 to 40 minutes. There did not appear to be any communications between the aircraft before the collision, Ryder added.

Impact on US-Russia Ties

The incident amid an ongoing war in Ukraine has raised concerns it could stiffen ties between the United States and Russia further and raise chances of a direct conflict.

Top U.S. and Russian defence and military leaders spoke Wednesday about the alleged encounter over the Black Sea, underscoring its seriousness. The calls between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russian General Staff, were the first since October.

The Russian Defense Ministry has accused the US of provoking the incident by ignoring flight restrictions the Kremlin had imposed because of its military operations in Ukraine.

The Kremlin argues that by providing weapons to Ukraine and sharing intelligence information with Kyiv, the US and its allies have effectively become engaged in the war, which is now in its 13th month.

Such U.S. actions “are fraught with escalation of the situation in the Black Sea area,” the defence ministry said, warning that Moscow “will respond in kind to all provocations.”

(With AP inputs)