NATO may boost Black Sea presence following drone crash: report

NATO may boost Black Sea presence following drone crash: report
FORT HUACHUCA, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 04: An MQ-9 Reaper drone with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) awaits a mission over the U.S.-Mexico border on November 04, 2022 at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. CBP air interdiction agents with U.S. Air and Marine Operations (AMO) pilot the surveillance drones from the base to intercept immigrants crossing illegally from Mexico into remote and rugged areas of southeastern Arizona. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images).

United States Army General Mark Hertling said on Tuesday that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization may boost its presence in the Black Sea in response to Russia downing an American Air Force MQ-9 or "Reaper" drone.

According to US officials, a Russian pilot collided with the craft following attempts to neutralize it by two Su-27 fighter jets.

"At approximately 7:03 AM (CET), one of the Russian Su-27 aircraft struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters. Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional manner," US European Command explained in a statement. "This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional."

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One of the pilots, The Guardian noted, "then struck the drone's propeller, 'causing US forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international water.'"

While nobody was injured, the incident could nonetheless provoke additional tensions in the region.

Afterward, Hertling told CNN that "this was probably a big mistake by a Russian pilot. There's going to be a denouncement of this and a démarche issued by the United States. You're not going to see any drones flying alone. You may see US aircraft, NATO aircraft intensifying their presence in the Black Sea area within hours."

Hertling then added to Newsweek that "one year, we were discussing our list of concerns and our different perspectives of the theater, and one of the USAFE generals on the staff told me one of his 'unlisted concerns' were Russian intercepts, since they were so undisciplined in their flying. 'One of these days there's going to be an accident because they aren't very good pilots.' There's a reason there is continuous aircraft on alert as part of NATO air policing operations."

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Newsweek's full report is available here.

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