Moment US drone hit by Russian Su-27 aircraft
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American drones ordinarily placed across the Black Sea have been pushed back south as a result of the alleged Russian strike last week, tightening already fraught tensions between the two nations. US officials say its surveillance devices have remained in international airspace, but since the collision, which saw one of Washington’s MQ-9 Reaper drones downed by a Russian jet, they have been moved away from airspace close to the Crimean Peninsula and east of the Black Sea.
The diplomatic row saw the US and Russia trade blame for who was responsible for the $32million (£26m) machine being shot down.
But now, a former US government whistleblower and aviation expert Dr Alan Diehl told Express.co.uk the crash in fact most likely occurred due to poor training from the Russian military, as opposed to anything more sinister.
In the aftermath of the drone being shot down, with US reports saying the incident happened close to the Ukraine-held Snake Island, the race to locate any intelligence on the device began, with Russia boasting it would find it first.
The US was less concerned. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said the military would “work through recovery operations” but the device was “probably broke up… there’s not a lot to recover frankly”.
He added: “As far as the loss of anything of sensitive intelligence, etc… we would take — and we did take — mitigating measures. So we’re quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value.”
So how, and most importantly why, the drone was a casualty of the latest dispute remains to some a mystery. But for Dr Diehl, the answers are a little less contentious.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Dr Diehl said: “If, at the last second, the Russian pilot had pulled back on the control stick (to raise his nose in hopes of avoiding a collision), the tail of his Su–27 would have actually moved downward slightly… the (rear-mounted) horizontal stabilator actually controls the pitch angle of a flying aircraft.
“And that movement might’ve been just enough to result in an actual collision. Ergo, the collision was an accident.”
The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based insider added: “It has been suspected that some of their airmanship failures are indicative of inadequate training, likely due to the reported flight-time limitations in their military.”
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Following the incident last week, Nikolai Patrushev, Russia’s Security Council Secretary, condemned the US, claiming Washington’s anger with Moscow was unreasonable, and that the race to find the device had begun.
He said on the Rossiya-1 TV channel: “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.”
Patrushev concluded: “This is another confirmation that they are directly involved in these actions, in the war.”
The drone, US state officials said, was “conducting a routine operation in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9”.
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But now the US has opted to move further from the airspace where its MQ-9 was downed.
Among the reasons for this, one official claimed, was part of a clear strategy to “avoid being too provocative”, with the likes of US President Joe Biden said to be keen to avoid any damage that could see the two nations finally go to war.
This move would continue “for the time being”, the official added, but the “appetite” to move back to the airspace it was previously occupying was there.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said yesterday the US would operate drones over the Black Sea, and continue to do so by “flying in international airspace in accordance with international law”.
He continued: “I’m not going to, for operational security reasons, not going to get into the specifics of routes, missions, timelines, things like that.”
Last week’s incident saw fierce debate sparked in the corridors of government, with many questioning why Russia opted to drench the American drone in petrol before controversially deciding to remove it from the sky.
Senator Mark Kelly, of Arizona, said the scenarios showed how “reckless… and incompetent” Russia truly was.
“I’m not surprised by this,” he said to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday’s edition of State of the Union.
“I mean, I flew with Russian pilots, fighter pilots who couldn’t fly formation. And I watched this video, and it’s pretty obvious what happened. He lost sight of it, and he crashed into it.”
Comparing the incident to the “incompetence that we see on the battlefield every day in Ukraine”, Mr Kelly added:”That’s w hy the losses that the Russians are suffering right now are really high.
“At this point I mean, the best choice for Vladimir Putin would be to say: ‘Hey, this isn’t working,’ and he’s got to stop this illegal invasion.”
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