In this February 21 photo, a US Air Force 119th Wing MQ-9 Reaper flys over an airfield at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
In this February 21 photo, a US Air Force 119th Wing MQ-9 Reaper flys over an airfield at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. (Senior Airman Christa Anderson/US Air National Guard/File)

A Russian fighter jet forced down a US Air Force drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday after damaging the propeller of the American MQ-9 Reaper drone, according to the US military.

The Reaper drone and two Russian Su-27 aircraft were flying over international waters over the Black Sea on Tuesday when one of the Russian jets intentionally flew in front of and dumped fuel on the unmanned drone several times, a statement from US European Command said.

The aircraft then hit the propeller of the drone, prompting US forces to bring the MQ-9 drone down in international waters. Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder added Tuesday that the Russian aircraft flew “in the vicinity” of the drone for 30 to 40 minutes before colliding just after 7 a.m. Central European Time.

“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,” Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said in the statement. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.���

The incident marks the first time Russian and US military aircraft have come into direct physical contact since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago and is likely to increase tensions between the two nations, with the US calling Russia’s actions “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional.”

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said that Russia does not want “confrontation” between his country and the US after he was summoned to the State Department following the downing of the drone.

“We prefer not to create a situation where we can face unintended clashes or unintended incidents between the Russian Federation and the United States,” Antonov said.

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