It’s the first time US and Russian military aircraft have come into contact since the invasion of Ukraine began.
Fuel For Thought
The US military has released a dramatic video of a mid-air exchange between an American drone and a Russian fighter jet that first doused the drone in jet fuel before colliding with it.
As CNN and other outlets report, the aircraft altercation occurred earlier this week above the Black Sea in Eastern Europe. According to officials, the entire encounter — which is the first time US and Russian aircraft have come into contact since the latter invaded Ukraine more than a year ago — lasted between 30 and 40 minutes.
This newly-released footage was captured by the American MQ-9 Reaper drone’s camera, which at the time was pointed toward its tail and rear propeller. The video of the incident shows the Russian Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jet beginning to dump fuel in an apparent attempt to sabotage the unmanned American craft.
Later in the footage, the Russian jet is seen making another fuel-dumping pass before colliding with the Reaper drone. When the camera comes back online, it’s clear that the back propeller had been damaged by the crash, which ultimately led to US officials downing it in the waters below.
As CNN notes, American military officials say that they were able to remotely wipe the drone’s software so that anyone who intercepted it in the international waters it landed in outside Crimea — which, as you’ll recall, Russia annexed back in 2014 — would not be able to access the sensitive information or technology stored on it.
Following the news of the in-air Russian offensive, three US officials familiar with the altercation told NBC News that the highest levels of the Kremlin had approved the attack on the drone, though it’s unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin himself had signed off.
Those same officials said that the Russian fighter pilot likely didn’t intend to clip the drone’s rear propeller, which Russian officials denied happening prior to the video being released.
Thus far, the US has not salvaged the drone wreckage and isn’t expected to do so. Although intelligence suggests Russia had reached the crash site, it would be “impossible for [the Russian military] to be able to glean anything of intelligence value off the remnants of that drone,” an American official told CNN because its memory was wiped.
All said, the first US-Russia air contact since the Ukrainian invasion began could have gone a lot worse — but it nevertheless doesn’t bode well as Russia’s offensive drags on.
More on Russia: NSYNC’s Lance Bass Was Training to Be a Cosmonaut When He Heard Something Fascinating