Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft that was operating within international airspace over the Black Sea, on Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
At approximately 7:03 AM (CET), one of the Russian Su-27 aircraft struck the propeller of the MQ-9, which required U.S. forces to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters. Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on the MQ-9 and then flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner. This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
“U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker added.
This incident follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with U.S. and Allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea. These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa routinely fly aircraft throughout Europe over sovereign territory and throughout international airspace in coordination with applicable host nation and international laws. In order to bolster collective European defense and security, these missions support Allied, partner, and U.S. national objectives.
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The Black Sea is located south of Ukraine, southwest of Russia and north of Turkey.