A Russian fighter jet forced down a US Air Force drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday after damaging the propeller of the American MQ-9 Reaper drone, according to the US military.
The Reaper drone and two Russian Su-27 aircraft were flying over international waters over the Black Sea on Tuesday when one of the Russian jets intentionally flew in front of and dumped fuel on the unmanned drone several times, a statement from US European Command said.
The aircraft then hit the propeller of the drone, prompting US forces to bring the MQ-9 drone down in international waters.
“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,” Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said in the statement. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”
The incident marks the first time Russian and US military aircraft have come into direct contact since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago and is likely to increase tensions between the two nations, with US calling Russia’s actions “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional.”
President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident by national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday morning, according to National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby.
Kirby He said it was “not uncommon” for Russian aircraft to intercept US aircraft over the Black Sea, and said there had been other intercepts in recent weeks.
But he said the episode Tuesday was unique in how “unsafe, unprofessional and reckless” the Russian actions were.
CNN has asked the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.
Russian and US aircraft have operated over the Black Sea during the course of the Ukraine war, but this is the first known such interaction, a potentially dangerous escalation at a critical time in the fighting.
The US has been operating Reaper drones over the Black Sea since before the beginning of the war, using the spy drones to monitor the area. Reaper drones can fly as high as 50,000 feet, according to the Air Force, and they have sensors and capabilities to gather intelligence and perform reconnaissance for extended periods of time, making it an ideal platform to track movements on the battlefield and in the Black Sea.
This story has been updated with additional details.