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What is known about the collision between a US drone and a Russian plane?

The crash of a Russian plane into a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday was an unusual but serious incident that sparked a US diplomatic outcry and raised fears that Russia could get hold of sensitive technology.

Here’s a look at what is known about the collision.

What the US says

The Pentagon and the US European Command say two Russian Su-27 jets dropped fuel on the MQ-9 drone, which was on a regular surveillance mission over the Black Sea, in international airspace. They say the Russian planes flew around and in front of the drone several times for about 30 to 40 minutes and that one of the planes “struck the MQ-9’s propeller, prompting US forces to shoot down the MQ-9 over international waters.”

Air Force General James Hecker, commander of the US air forces in Europe and Africa, said the actions of the Russian plane “nearly caused the two aircraft to crash.” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the collision probably also damaged the Russian plane, but the plane was able to land.

The Pentagon said the drone was “well clear” of any Ukrainian territory, but gave no further details. A US official, who asked not to be named, said it was operating west of Crimea, on the Black Sea.

It is not clear if it was an accident or an intentional act, but both parties agree that the Russian aircraft were trying to intercept the drone.

What Russia says

The Russian Defense Ministry says the drone was flying near the Russian border, entered territory off-limits by Russian authorities, and Russian planes immediately went out to intercept it. It alleges that “as a result of an abrupt maneuver, the US drone entered an uncontrollable flight with a loss of altitude and collided with a body of water.”

Russia has declared large areas of Crimea off-limits for overflights. Since it annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014 and well before invading Ukraine in 2022, Moscow has argued that US spy planes fly too close to its borders and ignore Russian warnings.

Countries operate in international airspace and waters as a matter of course, and none can limit activities outside their territory.

What is an MQ-9 Reaper?

The MQ-9 Reaper, a large US drone operated remotely by a two-person Air Force team. It includes a ground station and satellite equipment and its wings are 20 meters (66 feet) wide. The team includes a pilot responsible for steering the aircraft and a crew member in charge of operating the sensors and guiding the weapons.

The MQ-9 Reaper was used extensively during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for aerial surveillance and bombing, and can be flown with or without weapons. It is capable of carrying up to eight laser-guided missiles and hovering over a target for 24 hours. It is about 11 meters (36 feet) long, 4 meters (12 feet) high and weighs about 2,200 kilos (4,900 pounds). It is capable of flying at an altitude of up to 15 kilometers (50,000 feet) and has a range of approximately 2,500 kilometers (1,400 nautical miles).

diplomatic incident

The collision sparked a diplomatic incident between Russia and the United States.

The State Department in Washington summoned Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov on Tuesday for a meeting with Under Secretary of State for Europe Karen Donfried.

“We are reaching out to the Russians, at higher levels, to express our strong objections to this unprofessional and unsafe intercept, which caused the downing of a US drone,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

And White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States “will express our concerns about this unprofessional and unsafe interception.”

Source: VOA Español

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