The Pentagon has declassified footage of an incident this week in which a Russian Su-27 fighter jet collided with a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea.
In the video, which you can view below, the Su-27 can be seen repeatedly flying close and dumping fuel on the drone before colliding with it, briefly taking the camera offline. When the camera feed returns, one of the drone’s propellers has been visibly damaged.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier-General Pat Ryder said in a media briefing that the video was released to highlight the “unsafe and unprofessional” behaviour of the Russian pilot and officials who reportedly ordered the aggression towards the drone.
“It’s not unusual for us to release imagery of unsafe, unprofessional incidents. We’ve done that in other situations. And so particularly in this case, given the reckless and dangerous behavior and to demonstrate publicly what type of actions the Russians had taken, we felt that it was important to provide this imagery,” he said.
“Certainly, there are certain considerations that we have to take into account when dealing with imagery, to include the classification, to ensure that we’re not inadvertently putting out sensitive information, but in this case, we were able to work through that and provide that.”
Australian Aviation on Wednesday reported on the incident, which took place in international airspace and caused the drone to crash into the Black Sea. Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, accused Washington of “provocation”.
“The American UAV deliberately and provocatively was moving towards Russian territory with transponders turned off,” he said.
“The unacceptable activity of the US military in the close proximity to our borders is a cause for concern.
“They are collecting intelligence, which is subsequently used by the Kyiv regime to strike at our armed forces and territory.”
General Ryder has refuted the claims of provocation, saying that the US is not interested in conflict with Russia, and attacked the Kremlin’s “inaccurate information, false information, obfuscation, grasping at straws, [and] changing narratives”.
“The United States’ focus in the region, the focus with Ukraine, is solely on providing Ukraine with the support that it needs to defend itself. You’ve heard us say before that Ukraine has a right to defend itself, and we have a right to help them alongside the international community to do that,” he said.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Russia, we do not seek escalation with Russia, and so we’re going to continue to stay focused on our primary mission in the Ukraine area, which is supporting Ukraine in its fight.”