U.S. Releases Video of Exact Moment Russian Jet Collided With Drone

The U.S. has released footage that shows the exact moment a Russian fighter jet collided with a U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday.

The clip was released by U.S. European Command on Thursday. Taken by the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone, it shows the precise moment it collided with a Russian Su-27 fighter jet. A Pentagon spokesman had earlier raised the possibility that the department could declassify and release footage it has of the collision.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon on March 15, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia. Secretary Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley discussed various topics including the downing of an American MQ-9 Reaper drone in the Black Sea by Russian fighter jets. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Both sides have blamed each other for the collision, providing conflicting accounts. The Pentagon has said that the aircraft dumped fuel on the drone, which was in international airspace conducting a routine surveillance mission.

Russia's ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said in a statement Wednesday that the drone had "deliberately and provocatively" approached Russian air space.

"Two Russian Su-27 aircraft conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept with a U.S. Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unmanned MQ-9 aircraft operating within international airspace over the Black Sea on March 14, 2023," the U.S. European Command said in a statement, accompanying the video.

"Russian Su-27s dumped fuel upon and struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing U.S. forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters."

The 43-second clip of the mid-air encounter appears to show the Russian jet dumping fuel on the drone as it passes by. It appears to collide with the surveillance Reaper drone before the video feed is lost.

Toward the end of the video, when the feed is reestablished, one of the drone's propeller blades appears damaged.

The U.S. European Command said the declassified video has been edited for length, but that the events are depicted in sequential order.

The Kremlin has denied its planes came "into contact" with the drone, and has accused the U.S. of escalating the incident. It is the first known direct U.S.-Russia encounter since President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

On Wednesday, Russia it intends to attempt to retrieve the remains of the Reaper drone.

"I don't know whether we will be able to retrieve it or not, but it has to be done. And we'll certainly work on it. I hope, of course, successfully," Kremlin Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev told the state-run Rossiya-1 TV channel.

"Secondly, regarding the drone—the Americans keep saying they're not taking part in military operations. This is the latest confirmation that they are directly participating in these activities—in the war," he said.

On Thursday, Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia's military could raise the drone from the bottom of the Black Sea if it considers it necessary for national security interests.

"This is the prerogative of the military. If they consider it necessary for our interests and our security to do it in the Black Sea, they will do it," the Kremlin spokesperson told reporters.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's foreign ministry by email for comment.

Do you have a tip on a world news story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about the Russia-Ukraine war? Let us know via worldnews@newsweek.com.