Daily Mail

US drone is downed by Russian warplane

Moscow’s ambassador summoned to Washington

- By Mark Nicol Defence Editor

A RussiAn fighter jet and a us spy drone collided yesterday in a dramatic escalation of ‘superpower’ tensions over ukraine.

Following what is thought to have been a Kremlin-approved mission, the pilot of the su-27 combat aircraft clipped the propeller of the drone at 6am uK time – causing it to crash into the Black sea.

The provocativ­e act came after a pair of Russian jets flew above the Reaper MQ-9 and, according to us sources, deposited fuel on it. When this failed to affect the 36ft drone, one of the Russian aircraft was said to have deliberate­ly made contact with it.

Last night us state Department spokesman ned Price said Russia’s ambassador to the us will be summoned to Washington later today to explain the ‘brazen violation of internatio­nal law’.

The downing of the unmanned Aerial Vehicle is the first direct military contact between the us and Russia over the 13-month conflict.

it was also the first engagement between us and Russian military forces in any warzone since 2020.

us Air Force General James Hecker said the drone was ‘conducting routine operations in internatio­nal airspace’ when it was intercepte­d and hit by the Russian aircraft. The collision resulted in the ‘complete loss’ of the £26million Reaper MQ-9, which was equipped with long-range cameras and sensitive listening devices.

He added: ‘Before the collision, the su-27s dumped fuel and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmen­tally unsound and unprofessi­onal manner.’

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s Brigadier General Pat Ryder explained: ‘Because of the damage, we were in a position to have to essentiall­y crash into the Black sea.’

Just after the incident, us President Joe Biden was briefed by nato’s top brass. The Reaper drone, which is also operated by the uK, was not designed for combat so was no match for the faster su-27, which has a top speed of 1,550mph. in a defiant riposte to the Russians, us national security Council spokesman John Kirby said: ‘if the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying and operating in internatio­nal airspace, over the Black sea, then that message will fail, because that is not going to hapborder, pen.’ But the Russian defence ministry last night insisted its fighter jets did not use weapons, nor impact the us drone.

The MQ-9 just sharply manoeuvred and crashed after an encounter with Russian jets near Russia’s it added. us and Russian relations are already at their lowest point since the Cold War.

Russia’s downing of the drone also comes after the Kremlin said it was suspending its participat­ion in the new start nuclear weapons inspection agreement.

in June 2021, Britain’s HMs Defender was harassed by Russian fighter jets off the coast of Crimea. A Russian coastguard vessel also fired machine gun rounds towards the Royal navy ship. Then in October last year, a Russian fighter jet released a missile near a manned RAF ‘ Rivet Joint’ surveillan­ce plane in internatio­nal airspace over the Black sea.

But uK Defence secretary Ben Wallace told MPs the incident appeared to be accidental.

‘Reckless and unprofessi­onal’

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