What We Know So Far About the Downed American Drone
The incident was the first known physical contact between the Russian and American militaries since the war in Ukraine began.
The Pentagon on Thursday released video footage of the events leading up to a collision between a Russian fighter jet and a U.S. reconnaissance drone on Tuesday that forced the American aircraft down into the Black Sea.
Here is what we know:
What does the drone footage show?
The 42-second color video clip, shot from the drone itself, shows two high-speed passes by Russian Su-27 fighter jets, each time spraying a substance that the Pentagon said was jet fuel on the American MQ-9 Reaper drone. On a final pass, the camera feed is lost for about 60 seconds. During that time, the Pentagon says, one of the Russian jets collides with the drone. When the feed resumes, the drone’s propeller is shown to be damaged.
What does the footage not show?
The footage released by the Pentagon does not show the collision itself, or the subsequent crash into the sea. The video is shot at high altitude and over water, but it is not clear where the episode took place.
Where did the incident happen?
The Pentagon said that Russian warplanes intercepted the drone over international waters. U.S. officials also said that the drone was flying in international airspace and had crashed in waters southwest of Ukraine’s Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 and which Moscow considers part of Russian territory.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that the drone had been flying near the Crimean Peninsula and was headed toward the Russian border with its identifying transponder off. Moscow said this was a violation of the instructions Russia has issued for the airspace over its military operations in Ukraine.
U.S. Drone Downed in the Black Sea
American officials said a U.S. drone that was intercepted by two Russian warplanes went down 75 miles southwest of Crimea.
What are the U.S. and Russia saying?
A senior U.S. military official said the drone had taken off from its base in Romania early on Tuesday for a regularly scheduled reconnaissance mission. The drone’s cameras can observe Crimea from international airspace, the official said, and such missions, which have taken place since before the full-scale war in Ukraine began, can last up to 10 hours.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said on Wednesday that the incident would not deter such flights, adding that “the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.” He also blamed Moscow, accusing it of “dangerous and reckless and unprofessional behavior.”
Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said that the drone was conducting “unacceptable” activity in the vicinity of Russia’s borders. Mr. Antonov said that U.S. drones in the area collect data that is passed to Ukraine to enable it to conduct strikes on Russian territory, apparently referring to attacks in Crimea.
Where is the drone now?
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the drone went down in waters 4,000 to 5,000 feet deep and that any recovery would be difficult.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, said on state television on Wednesday that the Russian authorities were trying to retrieve the remnants of the drone. John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said the United States was “still assessing whether there can be any kind of recovery effort mounted.”
The Ukrainian military reported unusual Russian naval activity in the Black Sea on Thursday morning, saying that more ships than usual were deployed in a way that could suggest a search for the drone’s wreckage was underway.
General Milley played down the value of any intelligence that could be recovered were the drone to be raised.
What happens next?
The incident immediately raised friction between the Kremlin and Washington. The United States, with other allies, has supplied Ukraine with billions of dollars in military aid to sustain its defense against Russia, but it has also tried to manage tensions with Moscow and sought to avoid a direct military clash.
There were signs, however, that Washington and Moscow were both eager to avoid allowing the confrontation to cause a further deterioration of relations.
Valerie Hopkins and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.