Russian Fighter Jets Took Out a US Air Force Drone Near Ukraine

A U.S. general said the Russian fighters acted unsafely over international waters, resulting in the total loss of the unmanned aircraft.
In this June 13, 2010, file photo a U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, Pool, File)

MQ-9 Reaper drone

Two Russian Su-27 fighter jets downed an unmanned American MQ-9 Reaper drone over international waters not far from Ukraine in the Black Sea, according to a Pentagon statement. It’s yet another example of mounting tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the two most nuclear-armed states on the planet.


In the early hours of the morning, the two Su-27s tailed the U.S. Air Force drone over international waters, dumping fuel onto the aircraft to interfere with its flight, according to the U.S. statement. But the Russian fighters eventually became more aggressive and “struck the propeller” of the drone, resulting in it crashing into the sea. 

U.S. Air Force General James B. Hecker called the incident “unsafe and unprofessional,” which needlessly risked escalation between the U.S. and Russia.

“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,” said Hecker. “U.S. and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely.”

Since the war in Ukraine first began in February 2022, President Joe Biden’s administration has taken efforts to avoid risking direct confrontation between the American and Russian military. But several Pentagon missions exist in and around the ongoing conflict, and the U.S. government continues to transfer billions of dollars worth of weapons to Kyiv as its proxy against Russian aggression. 

For its part, the Kremlin and several Russian officials have increasingly threatened a nuclear exchange with the West if its support for Kyiv continues.