WASHINGTON, March 17 (Reuters) – The United States has resumed surveillance drone flights over the Black Sea region following a Russian fighter jet intercept on Tuesday that led to the downing of a U.S surveillance drone, two U.S. officials said.
An RQ-4 Global Hawk flew a mission to the region on Friday, the officials said, with one adding that it was the first such drone flight since the Tuesday incident. Pentagon officials have repeatedly stressed this week the incident would not stop Washington from flying such missions.
Still, the downing of a U.S. MQ-9 drone on Tuesday was the first direct U.S.-Russian incident since the Ukraine war began, worsening already tense relations between Washington and Moscow as both countries publicly traded blame.
Russia has denied U.S. accusations that its two Su-24 fighter jets acted recklessly around the unmanned U.S. aircraft, and instead has blamed “sharp maneuvering” by the drone for the crash.
However, the Pentagon released a video on Thursday showing a Russian Su-27 fighter jet coming very close to the drone and dumping fuel near it, in what U.S. officials said was an apparent effort to damage the American aircraft as it flew.
It also showed the loss of the video feed after another close Russian maneuver, which the Pentagon said resulted from a Russian jet colliding with the drone.
The video ends with images of the drone’s damaged propeller, which the Pentagon said was caused by the collision, making the aircraft inoperable and leading it to crash into deep waters.
The incident over international waters was a reminder of the risk of direct confrontation between the United States and Russia over Ukraine, which Moscow invaded more than a year ago and which Western allies have supported with intelligence and weapons.