The Pentagon early Thursday released a declassified video that officials say shows the Tuesday collision between a Russian Su-27 fighter jet and a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea.
The American craft crashed into the sea after the incident, which U.S. officials blamed on aggressive, unprofessional behavior by the Russian side.
The 42-second video seems to at least partially confirm the U.S. version of events. Moscow has denied that its planes fired on or struck the drone. They blamed the U.S. for flying surveillance flights so close to Russian territory.
But the footage seems to show the Russian aircraft flying dangerously close to the MQ-9. On its first pass, the Russian plane appears to dump fuel in a bid to disable the drone.
The drone was undamaged after the first encounter. A short time later, the Russian jet made a second pass, dumping more fuel, but this time the plane appeared to strike the propeller of the MQ-9, damaging it and temporarily killing the drone’s video feed.
The video is then briefly restored. American crews later brought the drone down in the Black Sea.
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Hours before the video release, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the footage would confirm the U.S. version of the story.
“We remain confident in the facts we have conveyed thus far,” Mr. Austin told reporters at a Wednesday press conference. “That will not change in terms of what happened and how it happened.”
Neither the U.S. nor Russia have so far recovered the wreckage of the MQ-9, which is believed to have sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday that the Pentagon knows the spot where the Reaper crashed.
He said the U.S. could enlist allies to help recover it.
“That’s U.S. property,” Gen. Milley said. “We do have allies and friends in the region. We don’t have any naval service vessels in the Black Sea at this time. We’ll work up options.”
“It probably sank to some significant depths, so any recovery operation from a technical standpoint would be very difficult,” Gen. Milley said. “We do have options and we do have friends and allies in the region.”
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