The US military sent another spy drone over the Black Sea on Friday, well away from the restricted airspace in which an MQ-9 drone crashed earlier this week after being intercepted by Russian jets.
Flight tracking sites showed a UAV with the callsign Forte10, identified as an RQ-4 Global Hawk, circles above Romanian airspace before flying south and east. The drone circled over the eastern part of the Black Sea, but never got closer than 100 kilometers to Crimea.
The Black Sea portion of the mission lasted just two hours, instead of the usual 12, a pro-Ukrainian observer noted on Twitter. calling It “definitely the strangest route I’ve ever seen the RQ-4 take.”
Unnamed US officials later confirmed the mission to Reuters, saying it was the first such flight since Tuesday’s incident. However, the Pentagon had previously said another drone had been sent out to monitor the Russian Navy’s possible salvage operation.
On Tuesday morning, two Russian jets intercepted an American MQ-9 Reaper that was inside restricted airspace without a transponder, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Moscow said that due to erratic maneuvers, the drone lost lift and fell into the water. The incident happened about 60 kilometers southwest of Sevastopol.
The European command of the US military accused the Russian pilots of “unsafe and unprofessional” flying, eventually releasing a video of jets repeatedly dousing the drone with fuel. According to the US, the drone crashed after a Russian jet plane hit its propeller. The Russian military said neither aircraft made contact with the UAV.
After the incident, the Pentagon’s top military and civilian leaders reached out to their Russian counterparts for the first time in months, while the State Department summoned Moscow’s envoy to Washington.
Ambassador Anatoly Antonov later said he had told his hosts that US drones should not fly so close to Russia. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said both pilots will receive an award for their actions.
The US military said yes on Thursday “weighing costs and benefits” of further drone operations and “close up view” on their routes to reduce the chance of more incidents.
Washington has admitted it has provided Ukraine with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information in the conflict against Russia, while insisting it is not a party to the hostilities. US and NATO spy planes routinely fly over the Black Sea and approach Crimea, sometimes just before Ukrainian forces launch attacks on the Russian peninsula.
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