WASHINGTON — A Russian fighter jet downed a U.S. drone operating over the Black Sea on Tuesday, U.S. European Command said in a statement.
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. James Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa.
Prior to the collision, two Russian aircraft harassed the drone, he said.
“Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” the statement added.
General Atomics’ Guardian drone, which is the maritime version of the company’s Predator B or MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle.
The incident “demonstrates a lack of competence” by Russia, the European Command said. The U.S. called the behavior “unsafe and unprofessional,” and part of a pattern of dangerous behavior by Russian pilots.
The incident occurred in international airspace, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. He added that the U.S. was consistently flying over the Black Sea before the war in Ukraine broke out in February of last year.
Two Sukhoi Su-27 fighters perform during celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Russian air force base of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Kant, about 20 km outside Bishkek on October 27, 2013. AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO (Photo credit should read VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP via Getty Images)
Vyacheslav Oseledko | Afp | Getty Images
Kirby said that the U.S. is not required to “check in” Russia before flying. He added that the State Department would discuss the matter with Russian counterparts.
The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone system is designed to collect intelligence and carry out reconnaissance missions and is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.
The remotely piloted system can carry a combination of Hellfire missiles, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs.