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IMMINENT WARNING: US MQ-9 REAPER DOWNED FROM COLLISION WITH ERRATIC RUSSIAN JETS

March 14, 2023

Martina Sclaverano, Isaiah Johnson, Arnold R. Koka, Sonia Savci, Virginia Martos Blanco, Emanuela Bulferetti, Megan McCluskey, Agathe Labadi, Mia McGillan, Lidia Nduka, Weapons/Tactics

Evan Beachler, Salomon Montaguth, Editors; Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor


American MQ-9 Reaper[1]


Event: On March 14, 2023, two Russian SU-27 fighters collided with an American MQ-9 Reaper over the Black Sea. The American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was flying in international airspace when Russian fighters dumped fuel on it and flew in front of it before colliding. The collision damaged its propeller, and US operators made it dive into international waters. Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the US National Security Council, John Kirby, determined that the Russian conductors’ flight was reckless and had a “lack of competence.”[2] Air Force General, James Hecker, called on Russia to conduct their military operations more safely and professionally in the future.


Significance: US military officials will likely continue monitoring international and American airspace to identify possible Russian misconduct to avoid an unintended escalation. Russian military spokesmen will likely accuse the US of piloting the MQ-9 Reaper dangerously, with a roughly even chance of blaming the incident on the altitude or flight trajectory. The diplomatic conflict will likely spill over to the war in Ukraine, with the US having a roughly even chance of supplying enhanced air defense systems to counter aircraft such as the SU-27 fighters. The US/Europe Command will likely opt for the use of alternative reconnaissance options to avoid other interceptions with Russia. Russia has a roughly even chance of trying to retrieve the MQ-9 Reaper from the Black Sea with air reconnaissance missions and submarine operations for intelligence, and research and development (R&D) purposes. A future collision with Russian aircraft will very likely result in increased armament shipments to NATO countries. Grain exports from Russia and Ukraine are likely to be disrupted from Russian military vessels attempting to recover the lost MQ-9 in the Black Sea, as they will likely have to navigate around the crashing site. Military activity in the area will likely allow for the renewal of the grain export agreement being renegotiated.


Recommendations:

  • The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends civilian aircraft operating in the airspace surrounding the Black Sea to increase cooperation with military officials from the US, UK, and Black Sea countries to avoid further confusion and possibly escalating tensions.

  • CTG recommends the US, UK, and Black Sea countries exclusively employ unmanned systems for all operations conducted in the area to avoid human casualties resulting from similar incidents.

  • CTG recommends commercial vessels have backup communications systems as increased electronic warfare will likely lead to potential disruptions.

  • CTG recommends countries importing Ukrainian or Russian grain prepare for delays. There is a roughly even chance that grain shipments located in the Black Sea will spoil from delays and improper storage.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information, please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone at 202-643-2848 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com

 

[1]General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper” by TDelCoro, licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

[2] Russian fighter jet collides with US Air Force drone over Black Sea, MSN News, March 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/russian-fighter-jet-collides-with-us-air-force-drone-over-black-sea/ar-AA18CnfG?ocid=winp2fptaskbar&cvid=de104aba8825437d979f4f9486a8666c&ei=3

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