The U.S. military has declassified footage showing the moment a Russian fighter jet collides mid-air into one of its drones.
The incident occurred over the Black Sea on Tuesday and led to the $32 million U.S. Reaper drone being brought down in international waters.
In the 42-second clip, the Su-27 Flanker jet can be seen dumping fuel as it passes close to the drone, a type of harrying that U.S. experts say they have not seen before.
The jet then makes a second charge toward the drone but this time actually collides with the aircraft causing the feed to go static. Once the feed comes back, the drone’s propellor appears to have been bent
The damaged propeller causes the U.S. Air Force to down the drone into the Black Sea, senior Russian officials have said they hope to salvage it.
Russia has denied the collision took place and said the drone crashed after making “sharp maneuvers,” after it “proactively” flew close to Russian air space near Crimea, reports Reuters.
U.S. officials have said it is clear the Russian jet was harassing the drone purposefully, but General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he is unsure if the Russian pilot meant to hit the drone — a move that put the Russian jet at risk.
The Pentagon said that the footage has been edited by the U.S. military for length but the events shown are in sequential order and came after a “sustained period” of harassment by two Russian fighter jets with officials stating that the pair of Su-27s had spent half an hour and 19 attempts trying to dump fuel on the drone.
The video was released with the following caption: “Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a US Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft operating within international airspace over the Black Sea on 14 March 2023. Russian Su-27s dumped fuel upon and struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters.”
U.S. military releases video showing a Russian Su-27 fighter jet colliding with an American MQ-9 Reaper drone above the Black Sea earlier this week. pic.twitter.com/4wrHauzObC
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) March 16, 2023
The incident risks an escalation of tensions between Russia and the U.S. amid the ongoing war in nearby Ukraine.