U.S. European Command released footage of Tuesday’s encounter between a U.S. surveillance drone and Russian warplanes over the Black Sea.
The newly declassified video, which the Pentagon said lasted between 30 and 40 minutes, depicts key moments of the mid-air encounter.
The video shows the MQ-9 Reaper drone’s camera pointed backwards towards its tail and the drone’s propeller mounted on the back spinning. Then, a Russian Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jet was shown approaching. As it gets closer, a Russian fighter jet intercepts the American drone and dumps it with fuel.
In another part of the footage, the Russian jet makes another pass. As it approaches, it dumps fuel again. Video from the drone was disrupted as a Russian fighter jet collided with an MQ-9 Reaper, damaging the propeller and eventually forcing the US to shoot the drone down in the Black Sea. Russia has denied the incident.
When the camera comes back online in the footage, the view is pointed backwards again, and the propeller is shown damaged from the collision. With the propeller damaged, drone operators effectively flew the aircraft as a glider while landing in the Black Sea, bringing it into international waters southwest of Crimea. On the way down, two U.S. officials told CNN that operators remotely wiped the drone’s sensitive software before it crashed into the water, mitigating the risk of classified material falling into enemy hands.
National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby said Wednesday on “CNN This Morning” that the drone had not been recovered and that there was “no certainty” the United States would be able to recover it.
Moscow made clear it was trying to recover the drone’s wreckage, and two officials told CNN on Wednesday that Russia had reached the crash site of the MQ-9 in the Black Sea. Kirby did not confirm the reported development, but said the U.S. “has been unable to gather anything of intelligence value from the remains of that drone, whatever remains are on the surface of the water.”
The Kremlin said the decision to recover the drone would come from Russia’s Defense Ministry.
“This is the prerogative of the military. If they believe it is necessary for our interests and our security in the Black Sea, they will do it,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
Peskov said he did not know what decision the ministry had made.
Moscow and Washington have been communicating through military and diplomatic channels following the incident.
This story has been updated with additional details.