MQ-9 Reaper drone (Photo:REUTERS/Janis Laizans)
Russia has suspended its search for the wreckage of a U.S.
MQ-9 Reaper drone downed over the Black Sea by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets
on March 14, Natalia Humeniuk, head of the Joint Coordination Press Center of
the Southern Defense Forces, said on Ukrainian national television on March 19.
“A curtailment of the search operation is being observed, where the air incident took place and where they were looking for something,” Humeniuk said.
“The weather and (water) depths do not contribute to the continuation of this work.”
Humeniuk said a group of Russian warships is still actively maneuvering in the Black Sea. They are keeping a safe distance of over 100 nautical miles from Ukraine’s weapons to avoid being targeted.
The European Command of the U.S. Armed Forces reported that on the morning of March 14, two Russian Su-27 aircraft dangerously intercepted an MQ-9 Reaper drone while it was carrying out routine operations in international airspace over the Black Sea. During the interception, one of the Su-27s hit the propeller of the MQ-9, which resulted in the drone being forced to land in the sea by the U.S. military.
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed the drone crashed due to “sharp maneuvering,” after which it went into an uncontrolled dive and crashed into the sea. By publishing a video on March 16, the United States proved that this was not the case.
The United States summoned the Russian ambassador following the incident.
The Pentagon stated that the Su-27 fighter may have been damaged during the attack on the drone. In response, the U.S. took measures to prevent the MQ-9 Reaper from falling into “the wrong hands” and to reduce its intelligence value. However, the White House is uncertain if the wreckage of the drone will be recovered.
As per a report by U.S. television news channel CNN, sensitive data was remotely wiped from the MQ-9 Reaper by its U.S. operators before the drone crashed into the water and before the Russians arrived at the crash site.
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