(CNSNews.com) – Declassified video footage released by U.S. European Command shows an incident over the Black Sea on Tuesday, when a U.S. Air Force drone was downed after being intercepted by two Russian fighter jets, one of which evidently collided with it, damaging its propeller.
The clip appears to contradict claims by the Russian defense ministry, echoed by the Kremlin and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov, that the Su-27 fighter did not make physical contact with the drone.
“The video is pretty darn conclusive about what happened and it absolutely just decimates the Russian lie,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told reporters in a virtual briefing on Thursday.
EUCOM says the clip was edited for length, but that it shows the unfolding events in sequential order.
The clip, according to a summary provided by EUCOM, shows a Russian Su-27 fighter approaching the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle from the rear, beginning to dump fuel as it passes.
The drone’s video transmission is briefly interrupted but the propeller can be seen operating normally, with no visible damage.
A Russian jet then approaches again, once again releasing fuel as it draws close to the UAV. At that point the camera feed is lost – the point at which EUCOM said the collision occurred.
When the camera feed returns to working order, one of the props of the MQ-9’s propeller is seen to be buckled.
EUCOM reported on Tuesday that operators were forced to pilot the drone down into the sea as a result of the damage.
The Pentagon says the incident took place in international airspace, over international waters.
Russia, in addition to denying that a collision occurred, says that it had informed the international community ahead of its invasion of Ukraine last February that it was temporarily restricting airspace in the area.
(The Russian defense ministry said the drone “violat[ed] the borders of the area covered by the temporary regime for the airspace use established for the purposes of the special military operation and brought to the notice of all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international norms.”)
According to Kirby, the U.S. has been flying in that airspace consistently since the invasion began.
Asked at a briefing Thursday if the U.S. military has any clearer idea yet as to whether the collision was deliberate, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said that remains unknown.
“I’ll tell you what we know and what we don’t know: We do know that this aggressive behavior was intentional by – on the part of the [Russian] pilots,” he said.
“Whether or not they – they hit the drone on purpose we don’t know. But it clearly demonstrates either poor airmanship or reckless behavior, because just from an airman standpoint, why would you hit another aircraft with your aircraft in the sky?” Ryder asked.
“And so, again – reckless, dangerous, unsafe, unprofessional behavior, which is why, again, we have called on the Russians to conduct their operations safely and professionally.”
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