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Russia’s Aerospace Forces were required to identify US drone over Black Sea — expert

The MQ-9 drone is about 11 meters long and is comparable to an aircraft by its length and it is very difficult to identify the class of an aerial object at once, Major General Vladimir Popov explained

MOSCOW, March 15. /TASS/. Fighter jets of the Russian Aerospace Forces were required to identify a US MQ-9 drone over the Black Sea because it violated the boundaries of Russia’s exclusive economic zone, merited Russian Air Force pilot, Major General Vladimir Popov told TASS on Wednesday.

"When a drone flies in such a zone [Russia’s exclusive economic area], especially without any identification marks, we are required to identify it as an aerial target," he said.

The MQ-9 drone is about 11 meters long and is comparable to an aircraft by its length and it is very difficult to identify the class of an aerial object at once, the expert explained.

"We must not consider a priori whether this is a recon aircraft or something else and so we needed to be certain. If it seemed to us that it was heading for our borders and we wanted to prevent this, we buzzed it to let it know that it might violate our sovereign space," Popov said.

There is an unwritten rule that aircraft must notify of its intentions in advance upon entering an exclusive economic zone, the expert pointed out. "This would be right but, unfortunately, the West and the United States have departed from these rules over the past 8-10 years. Let me note that our drones do not fly over the Atlantic waters or the Pacific Ocean close to the US exclusive economic zone," the expert said.

The US side will deny its guilt in the incident over the Black Sea, he said.

"I would like to see how the Americans would have reacted, had our strategic drones entered into the exclusive economic zone of Alaska or the US Pacific coast. They would have simply shot them down by a missile, as was earlier done with the Chinese balloons," Popov said.

Statement by Russia’s Defense Ministry

As Russia’s Defense Ministry reported, the Aerospace Forces’ air space control capabilities spotted a US MQ-9 drone near the Crimean Peninsula on the morning of March 14. As the ministry specified, the American drone flew with its transponders switched off "violating the borders of the area covered by the temporary regime for the airspace use established for the purposes of the special military operation and brought to the notice of all users of international airspace and published in accordance with international norms."

As the Russian Defense Ministry specified, the drone went into an uncontrolled flight as a result of an abrupt maneuver, lost its altitude and crashed into the water. Russian fighter jets did not employ their onboard armaments, did not enter into contact with the drone and safely returned to their home airfield.

As the US European Command claimed, one of two Russian Su-27 fighter jets hit the American drone’s propeller, causing it to crash into the Black Sea waters. It was reported that US President Joe Biden was informed about the incident and Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov was summoned to the US Department of State.

The MQ-9 Reaper is a modular reconnaissance/strike drone engineered by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The drone is outfitted with a turboprop engine enabling it to accelerate to over 400 km/h. The drone features flight endurance of 24 hours. It is capable of carrying air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles and laser-guided bombs.