Russian jets crashed a US drone, and now Moscow wants to fish the busted aircraft out of the sea

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Russian jets crashed a US drone, and now Moscow wants to fish the busted aircraft out of the sea
An MQ-9 ReaperUS Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens
  • Russia wants to recover the remains of a downed US military drone from the Black Sea.
  • An "out of control" Russian fighter jet clipped the drone on Tuesday, causing it to crash.
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A Russian fighter jet clipped a US military drone operating over the Black Sea on Tuesday, causing the drone to crash into international waters below. Now, Moscow wants to fish out the damaged aircraft.

It is unclear if the US intends to recover the downed MQ-9 Reaper drone, but if it does, it may find itself in competition with Russia, which hopes to get its hands on the US aircraft first, according to a senior Russian security official.

Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's Security Council and former head of the Russian FSB security service, said on state television that Russia plans to retrieve the debris, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

"I don't know if we can recover them or not, but we will certainly have to do that, and we will deal with it," Patrushev said. "I certainly hope for success."

The US has not shared specifics on any potential recovery plans, and the spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, John Kirby, said earlier Wednesday that he's unsure if the US would be able to recover the debris from the "very, very deep water."

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Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Tuesday that the US had no information to provide on a possible recovery effort. In the past, the US military has deployed assets to try and salvage sensitive military equipment whenever it's able to do so.

Two Russian Su-27 fighter jets carried out an interception of the US drone above the Black Sea on Tuesday and engaged in maneuvers which US European Command described as "unsafe and unprofessional." The Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the drone several times before one of the jets struck the Reaper's propeller, forcing the US military to bring the aircraft down in international waters.

US officials sharply criticized Russia for the incident. A State Department spokesperson said the Russian pilots displayed a "a lack of competence," and another official said the Su-27 was "out of control." Moscow's ambassador to the US, however, pinned blame for the incident on the Washington.

Tuesday's crash was the most direct confrontation between the US and Russia since Moscow launched a large-scale attack on Ukraine in February 2022, and it's the latest in a string of aggressive Russian actions against NATO militaries in the Black Sea area.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday that although the "hazardous" incident was part of a pattern, it won't stop US aircraft from carrying out future missions.

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"Make no mistake — the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows. And it is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner," he said.

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