Russian Jet Collides With U.S. Drone Over Black Sea.

A Russian fighter jet collided with a US surveillance drone in international airspace above the Black Sea, causing the American aircraft to crash, the Pentagon said, an incident that ratcheted up tensions already running high over the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s defense ministry denied the US claim, saying its jets didn’t come into contact with the drone, according to a statement posted on Telegram. The statement said the drone’s transponders were off, and it flew out of control and crashed “as a result of sharp maneuvering” and that the Russian aircraft returned safety to their base.
US officials had a different description of the event. The US European command said the Su-27 warplane, accompanied by a second Russian jet, struck the propeller of the MQ-9 Reaper drone in what was an “unsafe and unprofessional” intercept at around 7 a.m. local time. The two Russian fighter jets flew in front of and dumped fuel on the drone before the strike, it said.
“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 General James Hecker said. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
The US planned to summon Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, while US Ambassador Lynn Tracy “conveyed a strong message to the Russian ministry of foreign affairs,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Price said the collision was a “brazen violation of international law.”
The incident over the Black Sea appeared certain to cause a new spike in strains between Moscow and Washington, whose relationship has almost completely broken down over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago. It also fit what US officials said was an increasingly aggressive pattern of behavior by Russian jets around the Black Sea, which is home to a Russian naval fleet, and surrounds the peninsula of Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
In February, the Pentagon scrambled fighter jets to counter four Russian aircraft that approached US airspace off Alaska. The US military was on heightened alert following the shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon and a series of other unidentified objects over US airspace.
“Russian irritation about US and NATO activities in/around the Black Sea is nothing new,” Andrew Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in a tweet. “Surely, people in the Kremlin are smart enough to know that US won’t back away from conducting surveillance missions like the drone flight that a Russian jet crashed into today.”
US officials echoed that argument, with White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby saying the US would keep doing “what we need to do for our own national security interests in that part of the world.” He said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident.
Kirby said intercepts by Russian aircraft over the Black Sea are “not uncommon.” 
The US is working to declassify video of the incident, the Pentagon said. An early US assessment of the incident found that the two Russian jets flew close to the drone for 30-40 minutes before the collision. The MQ-9 has a 66-foot wingspan and is powered by a tail-mounted propeller.
“We have seen a little bit more aggressive attitude both in the Baltic Sea and also in the the Black Sea,”  Norwegian Colonel Eirik Guldvog said last week. “It can be aggressive voice radio messages. It can be more aggressive flying, closer. A little bit more aggressive behavior, flying like you are preparing to launch weapons for instance without using weapons.”

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