Guide to U.S. military drones
March 15, 2023 - The MQ-9 Reaper drone brought down by Russian “coercive signalling” – limited military action, short of direct aggression – is one of the formidable range of U.S. crewless aircraft.
A Russian fighter jet collided with the $30-million U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday (March 14, 2023), forcing it to crash into international waters.
John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council said it was “not uncommon” for foreign actors to fly close to U.S. aircraft over the Black Sea, but what was “unique” in this case was how “unsafe, unprofessional and reckless” the action by President Vladimir Putin’s military was.
The MQ-9’s remote pilot brought it down after Russian Su-27s dumped fuel on the aircraft, and one collided with the Reaper’s propeller. The collision is the first known physical contact between the two nations’ militaries due to the war in Ukraine.
The drone had taken off from its base in Romania in the morning for a 10-hour reconnaissance mission. The Reaper, flying at about 15,000 metres, has sophisticated sensors that can peer into Russian-annexed Crimea from international air space – a typical mission, an official said.
Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, described Tuesday’s confrontation as part of a pattern of Russian “coercive signalling” – military actions that fall short of the use of force.
A 2020 RAND Corporation report titled “Understanding Russian Coercive Signalling” documents dangerous Russian activity, though they fall short of the aggressive manoeuvres against the Reaper drone.