A Russian fighter plane has collided with a US drone, leading the unmanned US aircraft to crash into the Black Sea, the US military has claimed.
US military reported that the incident took place at about 07:03 Central European Time on Tuesday.
The Pentagon claims the drone was on a routine mission in international airspace when two Russian jets sought to intercept it.
Denying any contact between the two aircraft, Russia said the drone fell following a “sharp maneuver”.
The Russian defense ministry also said that the MQ-9 Reaper’s transponders were disabled. Transponders are communication devices that enable the tracking of an airplane.
The event illustrates the looming possibility of direct confrontation between Russia and the United States over the Ukraine conflict.
After Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, there have been a number of incidents of close encounters. A Su-27 came perilously close to an RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft in 2017. The following year, a Russian warplane flew directly in front of an American B-52 bomber, and in 2020, a Su-27 flew straight in front of an American EP-3 espionage plane.
The event on Tuesday is more dangerous because it resulted in a collision and a water landing. Quite probably, an error was made. The US-European Command alluded to incompetence on the side of the Russian pilot.
The US has summoned the Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, to raise concerns over the incident.