The “Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance” platform was “operating within international airspace” when the airplanes approached, EUCOM said in a statement.
One of the Su-27s “struck the propeller of the MQ-9,” so the operators ditched the drone into the sea.
“Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner,” the US military complained, accusing the Russians of “a lack of competence.”
General James Hecker, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, stated the drone was “conducting routine operations in international airspace” and that the crash had resulted in a “complete loss” of the MQ-9.
EUCOM added the US “routinely” operates drone flights in international airspace to “bolster collective European defense and security” and “support Allied, partner, and US national objectives.”
Hecker noted the flights would continue, calling on the Russians “to conduct themselves professionally and safely.”
The Pentagon routinely uses the phrase “unsafe and unprofessional” to describe incidents when interceptors chase off US drones, spy planes or fighter jets that come too close to the Russian border.
The Russian Defense Ministry sais the drone fell into the Black Sea due to its own sharp maneuvering, Russian fighters did not come into contact with it and did not use weapons.
“As a result of sharp maneuvering around 09:30 Moscow time [06:30 GMT], unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 went into an uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface. The Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle and returned safely to their home airfield,” the ministry added.
The ministry clarified that the airspace control of the Russian Aerospace Forces had recorded the flight of US unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 over the Black Sea in the region of the Crimean peninsula in the direction of the Russian state border.
The flight of the drone “was carried out with transponders turned off, violating the boundaries of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace, established for the purpose of conducting a special military operation, communicated to all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international standards,” the defense ministry noted.
Russian fighters from the air defense forces on duty were scrambled in order to identify the intruder, according to the ministry.
The State Department is summoning Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov after the incident, spokesman Ned Price said. In the meantime, Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy has conveyed a strong message to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Price added.