NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 18:03
Wessel de Young
Wessel de Young
Russia and the United States are blaming each other for the crash of the American drone yesterday in the Black Sea about 120 kilometers southwest of the Crimea peninsula.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin blames the Russians for the crash of the Reaper drone, which had taken off from a base in Romania and was on a reconnaissance flight.
Austin calls the actions of the Russian pilots who intercepted the drone “aggressive, risky and reckless”.
According to the American news channel CBS, Russian Sukhoi-27 fighter jets flew right past the drone nineteen times, for more than half an hour. As they passed, they allegedly opened their fuel tanks to blind or damage the Reaper’s sensors with kerosene.
On the last pass, a jet hit the drone’s propeller with its tail, rendering it uncontrollable. The drone pilots, who operate the device from an air force base, had no choice but to let the device go into a glide. According to CBS, the Pentagon would like to pick up the debris from the sea. Whether the Russians want to do the same is unknown.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev says the drone incident proves that the United States is directly involved in the war in Ukraine. Patrushev is considered one of the architects of the Russian invasion of the neighboring country.
The Russian ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, called the presence of the US drones so close to Crimea a provocation. The US State Department has called him to account for the incident.
Secretary Austin says the Reaper flew over international waters and Washington will continue to do so “where international law permits”.
The Russian defense ministry says the US drone violated the airspace limits declared under Special Military Operation, the official Russian name for the war. Furthermore, the drone’s transponder would have been turned off, which normally transmits a recognition code. The Russians also claim that the drone crashed due to sharp maneuvers.
This is the Reaper
An MQ-9 Reaper, in service with the United States Air Force since 2007, is an unmanned aerial vehicle that performs both reconnaissance and combat flights. The Reapers can be armed with missiles and bombs. Over the Black Sea, the Reaper was unarmed and conducted a patrol that averaged about ten hours.
The Americans used them a lot during the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and also Libya. The drone attacks in Afghanistan in particular led to criticism, because they also caused many civilian casualties. The pilots are located at a great distance, including at an air force base in Las Vegas. They keep in touch via satellites.
Professor of War Studies Frans Osinga is “in itself” surprised about the drone incident. “Russian jets often fly close to our ships. We see bombers over the North Sea. We have seen that pattern for some time. This is more serious. This is a direct confrontation between major powers. The Russians wanted to send a signal: we see you and we can do something about it,” assumes the former commodore in the Dutch air force.
Former F-16 instructor Osinga doubts that the Russians intended to crash the drone. “If they had turned on their afterburner, they would have blown it away.” The top speed of a Reaper is 440 kilometers per hour, much slower than a fighter jet.
Osinga also says that if research shows that it is a deliberate provocation, which is very serious. “If you damage the propeller, you’ve come very close.” Nevertheless, he sees that the United States is now downplaying the incident. “This is not going to be a tooth for a tooth.” Just before the crash, Americans are said to have erased sensitive information in the drone’s memory.
Osinga knows that the Reapers are constantly brushing the boundaries of Russian and Belarusian airspace. He believes that some of the information the Reapers gather is likely to be passed on to the Ukrainians through direct contacts in Kyiv, not through NATO channels. That information is of great importance to the Ukrainians. Partly for this reason, Osinga assumes that “something like this is flying again at the same place” above the Black Sea.
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