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Ukraine conflict: RAF continues to operate in Black Sea region despite Russian takedown of US Reaper

A screenshot taken from the onboard camera of a USAF MQ-9A Reaper UAV as it is harassed by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter over the Black Sea on 14 March. Despite the Reaper eventually being destroyed, the RAF says it continues to operate its manned aircraft in the region, “in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization rules”. (US DoD)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) continues to operate in the Black Sea region, despite the recent downing of a US Air Force (USAF) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) off the coast of Ukraine.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) told Janes on 20 March that the harassment and eventual downing of a USAF MQ-9A Reaper UAV the previous week had not impacted its operations in the region, which “continue in international airspace in accordance with [the] International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules”.

RAF aircraft operating in the region include Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, Airbus Voyager tankers, and L3 Technologies RC-135V/W Airseeker (Rivet Joint) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, but not the Reaper or any other type of UAV.

The MoD's comments came days after the US European Command released onboard video footage from the Reaper that showed a pair of Russia Su-27s performing what it called “unsafe and unprofessional” close passes on 14 March, during which they appeared to dump fuel in the UAV's path in an apparent attempt to disable the engine. One of the Su-27s hit the Reaper, damaging its propeller and causing it to crash into the sea.

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