MQ-9 crash: Russia denies contact with US drone

Russian Defence ministry says US MQ-9 drone ‘went into an unguided flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface’ following abrupt manoeuvring

NEW DELHI | Updated: 15 March, 2023 10:04 pm IST
MQ-9 drone is capable of carrying air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles, and laser-guided bombs

The Russian Defence ministry denied western media reports that Russian planes hit the US surveillance drone, forcing it to crash over the Black Sea and triggering a strong diplomatic protest by the US.

“On March 14, 2023, in the morning, the Russian airspace control systems have detected an American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle flying over the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation,” the Russian defence ministry said.

“The drone flew with its transponders off, violating the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace, and published in accordance with international standards,” the ministry said.

According to the ministry, fighter jets of the air defence force on duty scrambled to identify the intruder. As a result of quick manoeuvring around 9.30 am (Moscow time), the MQ-9 drone went into an unguided flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface, it added.

“The Russian aircraft did not use on-board weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and returned safely to their home airfield,” the ministry clarified.

Earlier, the Pentagon said two Russian Su-27 aircraft dumped fuel on the MQ-9, which was conducting a routine surveillance mission over the Black Sea in international airspace.

They said the Russian jets flew around and in front of the drone several times for 30 to 40 minutes and then one of the Russian aircraft struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing the MQ-9 to fall into international waters.

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, also called Predator B, is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations. It is developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force (USAF). The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.

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