Watch: Footage of Russian jets dumping fuel on US MQ-9 Reaper drone
On Tuesday morning, the U.S. European Command released a 42-second video to back its claims that Russian jets dumped fuel on its MQ-9 Reaper drone. The video has been edited for length but shows events in sequential order on how the Russian jets confronted the drone in the air.
The incident marks the first time since the Cold War that a U.S. aircraft has gone down after being intercepted, raising concerns that the two nations have been brought close to conflict. While the U.S. has accused the Russian jets of damaging the drone's propeller, Russia has claimed that the drone went down after performing a "sharp maneuver".
What happened between the drone and Russian jets
As per the Pentagon, the 36-foot (11 m) long drone was performing a surveillance and reconnaissance mission to support the Ukrainian effort against the Russian invasion. A pair of Russian Su-27 flanker jets intercepted the uncrewed drone and made two exceptional close passes.
As per the details published in The Guardian, the event transpired for over 30 minutes, during which the jets flew close to the drone on 19 occasions and sprayed jet fuel on their last three to four flybys.
The video clip shows how the Russian jets dumped fuel on the $32 million drone and, during the second attempt in the clip, came very close to the U.S. aircraft, following which the video feed is pixelated. When the feed recovers, the jets are nowhere to be seen, but one of the propeller wings is visibly damaged.
The U.S. officials said that the drone could not be recovered and was deliberately crashed into waters of the Black Sea that were 4,000-5,000 feet (1,200 to 1,500 meters) deep. The officials took this decision since the drone was unarmed.
The U.S. has no ships in the area and is making no efforts to recover the drone's wreckage. Officials are confident that even if Russia were to salvage the remains of the drone, they would not find anything of military value in it.
The incident has escalated tensions between the two nations, leading to calls between the Defense Ministers and Joint Chiefs of Staff, a first since October last year.
Moscow has argued that the U.S. supply of weapons and intel to Ukraine means the former is effectively engaged in the war and risks escalation of the situation in the Black Sea area.
The U.S., on the other hand, has said that Russian warplanes have become aggressive to U.S. bases in Syria over the past two weeks and have shown " unprofessional and unsafe behavior".
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