The US has taken “steps” to protect its military property, according to the White House, after an advanced US Air Force drone collided with Russian warplanes in international airspace on Tuesday.
The US does not want the wreckage of the downed MQ-9 Reaper drone “falling into the hands of anyone other than ours,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN on Tuesday.
A US MQ-9 Reaper drone was hit by Russian Su-27 fighter jets at 7:03 a.m. ET Tuesday over the Black Sea, the US military said.
During a news briefing Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said he would not “go into the specifics” of the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). “However, due to the damage, we were in a position to essentially have to dump it into the Black Sea.” It was “uncontrollable” and unflyable, Ryder said, so the US “shot it down.”
The Su-27 aircraft behaved “recklessly, pollutingly and unprofessionally” before the collision, the US European Command said in a statement. “This incident shows a lack of competence and is not only unsafe and unprofessional.”
Russia’s defense ministry said Tuesday the collision was “the result of sharp maneuvering.” The MQ-9 drone “went into an uncontrolled flight with loss of altitude” before hitting the water. In a statement, she denied that the Su-27 aircraft “came in contact” with the drone.
US Air Force General James Hecker said the drone was “intercepted and hit by a Russian plane” resulting in “a crash and the complete loss of the MQ-9”.
“Obviously we’re refuting the Russians’ denials,” Kirby said. Speaking to anchor Jake Tapper on Tuesday, he added that the US “has taken steps to protect our stocks in relation to this particular drone — this particular aircraft.”
“It is the property of the United States,” Kirby said. “Obviously we don’t want anyone but us to get their hands on it.”
“As far as I know, the Russians have not recovered this plane at this point,” Ryder told the media, saying he had no news to offer on the US recovery effort.
Retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he was “concerned” that Moscow is “best placed to recover and exploit the technology from the downed drone.”
However, James Rogers, a war historian specializing in drones and a NATO advisor, said news week that while the MQ-9 Reaper is an “advanced” drone with capabilities that “will be of interest to Russia,” a rush from Moscow to recover the remains of the UAV is “unlikely.”
Little of the data collected by the Reaper is stored onboard the drone, reducing the risk of data leakage, Rogers said.
The Reaper has “become a common presence in international airspace over the Black Sea,” he added. The US is likely to increase the number of already “routine” drone patrols in the region after the collision.
Ambassador of Russia to the US Anatoly Antonov said he “categorically denied all insinuations from the US side” after being summoned to the State Department about the incident.
Antonov tells news week on Tuesday: “I stressed that the American UAV, which deliberately and provocatively moved into Russian territory with the transponders turned off, violated the limits of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation intended for all affected users of international airspace communicated in accordance with international standards.”
news week emailed the White House for comment.