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US UAV downed in Black Sea following mid-air collision with Russian Sukhoi Su-27

USAF MQ-9 Reaper in Afghanistan. The Reaper is equipped with what is believed to be the ‘Gorgon Stare' wide-area airborne surveillance system (WAASS). The MQ-9 downed in the Black Sea may have been equipped with a similar system. (United States Air Force)

A US Air Force (USAF) General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed into the Black Sea on 14 March, following what the Pentagon said was an aerial collision with a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter.

The collision occurred at 07:03 Central European Time when one of two Su-27s that intercepted the UAV struck its rear-mounted propeller, “causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters“, according to a statement by US European Command.

“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 US Air Forces Europe commander General James Hecker. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”

The Sukhois intercepted and shadowed the aircraft for roughly 30-40 minutes before the incident, said a Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson, repeatedly flying close in front of and venting fuel onto the MQ-9. One of the two Sukhois “essentially ran into” the propeller at the rear of the MQ-9, the spokesperson said.

The involved Sukhoi incurred damage but was able to land in Russia. The extent of damage is not publicly known, nor whether the Sukhoi landed at the same airfield it lifted off from.

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