The Hamilton Spectator
Russian jet seen dumping fuel on U.S. drone
Poland giving Ukraine a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming first NATO member to fulfil request
The Biden administration released video Thursday of a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a U.S. air force surveillance drone as the U.S. sought to hold Russia responsible for the collision that led to the drone’s crash into the Black Sea without escalating already fraught tensions with the Kremlin.
Poland, meanwhile, said it’s giving Ukraine a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the first NATO member to fulfil Kyiv’s increasingly urgent requests for warplanes.
The U.S. military’s declassified 42second colour footage shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 Reaper drone and releasing fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said. Dumping the fuel appeared to be aimed at blinding the drone’s optical instruments to drive it from the area.
On a second approach, either the same jet or another Russian Su-27 that had been shadowing the MQ-9 struck the drone’s propeller, damaging a blade, according to the U.S. military, which said it then ditched the aircraft in the sea.
The video excerpt does not show the collision, although it does show the damage to the propeller.
Russia said its fighters didn’t strike the drone and claimed the unmanned aerial vehicle went down after making a sharp manoeuver.
While calling out Russia for “reckless” action, the White House tried to strike a balance to avoid exacerbating tensions. U.S. officials said they have not been able to determine whether the Russian pilot intentionally struck the American drone and stressed that lines of communication with Moscow remain open.
“I can’t point to that video and say this is a deliberate attempt to escalate or … tangibly bring about (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s false claim that this is about the West versus Russia,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said. “We have made clear on many occasions, we do not seek a conflict with Russia.”
Putin argues that by providing weapons to Ukraine and sharing intelligence information with Kyiv, the U.S. and its allies have effectively become engaged in the war, now in its 13th month.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said Wednesday that an attempt would be made to recover the drone debris.
U.S. officials have expressed confidence that nothing of military value would remain from the drone even if Russia retrieved the wreckage. They left open the possibility of trying to recover portions of the downed $32-million (U.S.) aircraft, which they said crashed into waters that were 1,200 to 1,500 metres deep, although the U.S. does not have any ships in the area.
Russia and NATO member countries routinely intercept each other’s warplanes, but Tuesday’s incident marked the first time since the Cold War that a U.S. aircraft went down during such a confrontation.
The U.S. military released footage of the encounter between a U.S. surveillance drone and a Russian fighter jet as it played out over the Black Sea.