John Kirby Says Measures Taken to Stop MQ-9 Reaper Falling Into Wrong Hands

The U.S. has "taken steps" to protect its military property after an advanced U.S. Air Force drone collided with Russian fighter jets in international airspace on Tuesday, according to the White House.

The U.S. does not want the wreckage of the downed MQ-9 Reaper drone "to fall into anyone's hands other than ours," National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, told CNN on Tuesday.

A U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was struck by Russian Su-27 fighter jets at 7:03 a.m. ET over the Black Sea on Tuesday, the U.S. military said.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said he would not "get into the specifics" of the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). However, "because of the damage, we were in a position to have to essentially crash it into the Black Sea." It was "uncontrollable" and unfit for flight, Ryder said, so the U.S. "brought it down."

MQ-9 Reaper drone
An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies by during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base on November 17, 2015 in Indian Springs, Nevada. A U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was struck by Russian Su-27 fighter jets at 7.03 a.m. ET over the Black Sea on Tuesday, the U.S. military said. Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

The Su-27 planes behaved in "a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner" before the collision, the U.S. European Command said in a statement. "This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional."

Russia's defense ministry said on Tuesday that the collision was "a result of sharp maneuvering." The MQ-9 drone "went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude," before hitting the water. In a statement, it denied that the Su-27 aircraft came "into contact" with the drone.

U.S. Air Force General James Hecker said the drone was "intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft," which led to "a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9."

"Obviously, we refute the Russians' denial," Kirby said. Speaking with anchor Jake Tapper on Tuesday, he added that the U.S. has "taken steps to protect our equities with respect to that particular drone – that particular aircraft."

"It's the United States' property," Kirby said. "We obviously don't want to see anybody getting their hands on it beyond us."

"To my knowledge, at this point in time, the Russians have not recovered that aircraft," Ryder told the media, saying he had no updates to offer on the U.S. recovery efforts.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he was "concerned" that Moscow was "best positioned to recover & exploit the tech" from the downed drone.

However, James Rogers, a war historian and NATO adviser specializing in drones, told Newsweek that, although the MQ-9 Reaper is an "advanced" drone with capabilities that "will be of interest to Russia," a rush from Moscow to retrieve the remnants of the UAV is "unlikely."

Little of the data gathered by the Reaper will be stored onboard the drone, reducing the risk of data leaks, Rogers said.

The Reaper has "become a common presence in international airspace over the Black Sea," he added. The U.S. is likely to bolster the number of already-"routine" drone patrols in the region in the wake of the collision.

Ambassador of Russia to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said he "categorically rejected all the insinuations of the U.S. side" after he was summoned to the State Department over the incident.

Antonov told Newsweek on Tuesday: "I stressed that the American UAV that was moving deliberately and provocatively towards the Russian territory with its transponders turned off violated the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation, which was communicated to all concerned users of international airspace in accordance with international norms."

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment via email.