Dramatic video footage has emerged that captures the moment a Russian fighter jet crashes into a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea. On Wednesday, the Pentagon released the footage of the critical moments in the mid-air encounter on Tuesday between a US surveillance drone and the Russian fighter jets as it played out over the Black Sea.
According to the Pentagon, the encounter lasted between 30 and 40 minutes, which saw the Russian fighter jet damaging the drone's propeller and forcing US controllers to crash land the device in the Black Sea. The incident further escalated tensions between the two major world powers, who have been at odds since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The drone camera footage released by the Pentagon captures the horrific encounter with a Russian Su-27 fighter jet as it approaches from behind, cuts its propeller, and dumps fuel over it on Tuesday.
"Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a U.S. Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 Reaper operating within international airspace," the Pentagon said in a release issued with the video.
The video shows the MQ-9 Reaper drone's camera pointing backward toward its tail and the drone's propeller, which is located on the back, can be seen whirling. A Russian Sukhoi SU-27 fighter plane is then seen descending. The Russian fighter jet dumps fuel as it approaches and intercepts the US drone.
Another portion of the video shows the Russian fighter jet performing another pass. As it draws closed it again dumps fuel. The video from the drone is then suddenly disrupted as the Russian fighter jet collides with the MQ-9 Reaper, breaking the propeller and finally causing the US to shoot down the drone in the Black Sea.
Russia denied that there was a collision.
As the camera resumes recording, the view once is once again backward and the propeller can be clearly seen damaged from the accident. The drone operators basically piloted the aircraft like a glider as it fell over the Black Sea, landing down in international waters southwest of Crimea despite the propeller being destroyed.
Two US sources told CNN that the drone's operators remotely erased the drone's critical software as it crashed, reducing the possibility that sensitive information may end up in the hands of the enemy before it crashed into the water.
The dramatic 42-second clip was released by the Military in response to Russian claims that the drone crashed on its own after "sharp maneuvering" and that the Russian fighter did not make contact with it.
Russia also announced that it would work to recover the debris of the $32 million drone after earlier warning that it would "consider any action with US weaponry as openly hostile,"
This is the first direct clash to take place between Russia and the US in such proximity to Crimea since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, criticized Russia's activities as reckless and dangerous.
However, Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons and did not come into touch with the US drone, the Russian Defense Ministry argued in a statement. "Due to sharp maneuvering, the American drone went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface."
Kirby claimed on Tuesday that the State Department would discuss its concerns with its Russian counterparts "about this unsafe and unprofessional intercept".
The crash, he continued, would neither "deter or dissuade" US forces from flying or conducting operations in international airspace.
Anatoly Antonov, the ambassador of Russia to the US, claimed that the US had engaged in an "act of provocation" by intercepting the $32 million spy drone. Washington was given a warning by Antonov that it must stop "hostile" flights near the border of his nation, or face the repercussions.
The US has maintained that Russia purposefully collided with the drone, as the recently released footage purports to demonstrate.