US deploys Global Hawk for Black Sea recon after Russia downed drone

The downing of the U.S. MQ-9 drone on Tuesday marks the first direct US-Russian confrontation since the start of the Ukraine war.
Baba Tamim
RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft.
RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft.

Northrop Grumman 

Following the downing of an American drone by a Russian fighter aircraft on Tuesday, the U.S. has resumed surveillance drone operations over the Black Sea region. 

A mission including a reconnaissance drone was flown into the area on Friday, according to two U.S. officials.

"An RQ-4 Global Hawk flew a mission to the region on Friday," the officials said, as per Reuters. "It was the first such drone flight since the Tuesday incident."

The downing of the U.S. MQ-9 drone on Tuesday marks the first direct U.S.-Russian confrontation since the start of the Ukraine war, aggravating already sour relations between Washington and Moscow. 

A video by the Pentagon on Thursday showed a Russian Su-27 fighter jet flying very close to a drone and dropping fuel very near to it in "an apparent effort to damage the American aircraft as it flew," according to U.S. authorities.

MQ-9 drone downing

The 36-foot (11 m) long drone, as per U.S. Military, was engaged in a surveillance and reconnaissance operation to aid Ukraine's defense against Russia. 

MQ-9 Reaper was caught by a pair of Russian Su-27 flanker fighters, who then made two extremely close approaches.

The episode lasted more than 30 minutes, according to The Guardian. During that time, the planes flew over the drone 19 times and splashed jet fuel on their final three to four flybys.

The video showed the loss of the video feed following another Russian jet maneuver, which the Military contended was caused by a Russian fighter slamming the drone.

Images of the $32 million drone's damaged propeller, which the Pentagon argued was a result of the accident and rendered the aircraft inoperable and responsible for its plunge into deep waters, are shown in the video's closing seconds.

The drone was later intentionally crashed into 4,000–5,000-foot (1,200–1,500-meter) deep Black Sea waters, as it was impossible to be retrieved. 

Russia refuted American claims that its two Su-24 fighter jets behaved carelessly around the American aircraft in flight, blaming the drone's "sharp maneuvering" instead for the accident.

Both Russia and U.S. have since blamed each other for the MQ-9 crash. 

Pentagon officials have highlighted repeatedly this week that the incident will not prevent Washington from undertaking similar operations.

The collision over international waters serves as a reminder of the potential for direct conflict between the United States and Russia over Ukraine.

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