U.S. MQ-9A Crashes After Collision With Russian Su-27


Credit: U.S. Air Force

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A crashed into the Black Sea on March 14 after colliding with a Russian Su-27 fighter that was acting unprofessionally, U.S. defense officials said.

The 7:03 a.m. collision involving two Su-27s and one MQ-9A comes after a string of unsafe encounters reported by U.S. and UK military aircraft since October.

For 30-40 min., two Sukhoi Su-27s flew near the MQ-9A and behaved unprofessionally, including dumping fuel on the medium altitude unmanned aircraft system (UAS), said Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman. 

Finally, one Su-27 flew too close and collided with the MQ-9A’s aft-mounted propeller, Ryder said. The collision broke the propeller on the MQ-9A’s engine, which forced ground operators to bring the aircraft down into the Black Sea.

U.S. military officials assessed that the collision also damaged the Su-27, Ryder said, but the Russian fighter was observed landing at a location the Pentagon did not disclose. 

“This unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash,” said Gen. James Hecker, EUCOM commander.

The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.-made UAS was conducting a routine surveillance mission in international airspace at the time of the incident, Hecker said.

A Navy P-8A Poseidon crew reported an unsafe intercept by a Russian fighter in February over the Mediterranean Sea. The UK Ministry of Defense also complained in October that a Russian Su-27 “released a missile” near a Royal Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint over the Black Sea due to an apparent technical malfunction.

The incidents have not changed NATO air surveillance operations in Europe, Hecker added.

“U.S. and allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely,” Hecker said.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.