Russia and the U.S. Race for Drone Debris


MQ-9 Reaper drone like the one downed over the Black Sea | Image by BlueBarronPhoto/Shutterstock

Russia and the United States are scrambling to collect debris from a drone downed over international waters in the Black Sea on Tuesday.

As recently reported by The Dallas Express, a Russian fighter jet forced down an MQ-9 Reaper drone in what the U.S. Air Force called a “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner.”

The incident spurred the first direct contact since October between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Russian counterpart, Defense Secretary Sergei Shoigu, that same day.

As confirmed by Austin during a press conference on March 15, they held a deconfliction call in which both sought to avoid any further escalation of the situation, per ZeroHedge.

Despite this attempt at defusing the drone situation, two more conflicts have jumped up in its place.

First, the Kremlin has restricted additional airspace over the Black Sea during its “special operation” in Ukraine.

Shoigu said that Russia “will continue to respond proportionately to all provocations,” per Al Jazeera.

In the meantime, Austin has reaffirmed that the U.S. will continue to “fly and to operate wherever international law allows,” per CNN.

These moves raise the possibility of another dangerous intercept encounter, similar to the one that resulted in the crashing of the drone.

Second, both sides now want to recover the drone, albeit for different reasons.

Noting that the drone crashed in a deep part of the sea, John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said that it is currently uncertain whether the U.S. military will be able to retrieve the wreckage, per CNN.

In doing so, the U.S. is seeking to protect its interests with respect to the fallen drone, which was manufactured and designed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Russia will likely attempt to reverse-engineer it, per ZeroHedge.

Meanwhile, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, has announced that the Russian navy will try to recover the wreckage before the U.S. does, per The Moscow Times.

While conceding that it might not be possible, Patrushev said, “It has to be done. And we will certainly work on it.”

Ukraine’s Operational Command reported on March 16 that the Russian navy had increased its presence in the Black Sea.

“A rather atypical number of ships grouping in 21 [units] may also be linked to a demonstration of dominance at sea as a response to the U.S. intention to direct the ship for a search operation following the air incident,” the post read. It added that the Russians themselves might be conducting a search operation.

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