The Pentagon released a declassified video early Thursday that officials say shows the collision between a Russian Su-27 fighter jet and a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea.
The American ship crashed into the sea after the incident, which US officials attributed to aggressive, unprofessional behavior by the Russian side.
The 42 second video appears to confirm, at least in part, the US version of events. Moscow has denied that its planes fired on or hit the drone. They accused the US of conducting surveillance flights so close to Russian territory.
But the footage appears to show the Russian plane flying dangerously close to the MQ-9. On its first flyby, the Russian plane appears to dump fuel to disable the drone.
The drone was undamaged after the first encounter. A short time later, the Russian jet made a second flyby and spilled more fuel, but this time the plane appeared to hit the MQ-9’s propeller, damaging it and momentarily disrupting the drone’s video feed.
SEE ALSO: ‘This is US Property’: Pentagon races to find wreckage of drone as Russia launches salvage mission
The video will then be restored briefly. American crews later crashed the drone in the Black Sea.
Hours before the video was released, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the footage would confirm the US version of the story.
“We remain confident in the facts that we have provided to date,” Mr Austin told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday. “That’s not going to change in terms of what happened and how it happened.”
Neither the US nor Russia have yet recovered the wreckage of the MQ-9, which is believed to have sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea. General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday that the Pentagon was aware of the spot where the Reaper crashed.
He said the US could enlist allies to help with the recovery.
“This is US property,” General Milley said. “We have allies and friends in the region. We currently have no naval service vessels in the Black Sea. We will work out options.”
“It probably sank to considerable depths, so any salvage operation would be very difficult from a technical point of view,” General Milley said. “We have options and we have friends and allies in the region.”
Source : www.washingtontimes.com