A video emerged which reportedly shows a near miss involving a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper and a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet. These are the two types which were involved in a collision over the Black Sea yesterday.
Since this incident took place, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has offered his thoughts on it and described it as a “hazardous episode [that] is part of a pattern of aggressive, risky, and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace.”
The four-second video was reportedly first posted to the Telegram Messenger service by the popular pro-Russian Fighter bomber account earlier today, allegedly filmed from the cockpit of a Flanker-series fighter, most likely a first-generation Su-27, however this has not yet been confirmed. The video shows a close flyby of a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 off the port side of the jet.
The wingtip of a Flanker-series fighter jet can be seen in the foreground as it passes by an MQ-9. via Telegram Messenger
The Reaper itself is a later-model MQ-9A with a four-bladed propeller, winglets, a range-extending underwing fuel tank, and a large vertical blade antenna.
The close flyby is largely concurrent with statements from U.S. officials yesterday, confirming that the Su-27 involved in the collision passed the drone on several occasions. It is possible that the video may have been taken from the second Su-27 involved or also taken from a separate incident.
The dramatic speed differential between Su-27 and MQ-9 are also apparent in the video. This is one factor that has been raised as a possible reason for the collision, with the Su-27 pilot having accidently hit the drone when the latter adjusted its speed or flight profile. Sources familiar with MQ-9 operations have told The War Zone that even minor changes in power power changes can lead to relatively rapid deceleration for the MQ-9.
The video doesn’t show any aggressive maneuvers that were reportedly carried out by the Russian fighter. These included dumping fuel on and flying directly in front of the MQ-9 before the Su-27 allegedly collided with the drone’s propeller.
Secretary Austin confirmed that the United States will continue to fly and operate “wherever international law allows.” He added: “It is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner.”
A U.S. military official, who has asked not to be named, has provided a more detailed description of the incident, based on a video from the MQ-9 they have seen. The official told Nick Schifrin of PBS that the contact between jet and drone “was not a controlled tap,” and that the Russian pilot was “barreling toward the drone,” “out of control,” when they hit the propeller. “Not something you’d see a professional pilot do. It was amateur hour,” the official went onto say.
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