National security adviser Jake Sullivan briefed President Joe Biden on the incident, John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters Tuesday. Russian pilots have intercepted U.S. warplanes in recent weeks but not in such a “reckless” manner, Kirby said.
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“It is the first time that an intercept resulted in the splashing of one of our drones,” Kirby said.
Kirby and military officials stressed that the Reaper drone was operating in international airspace when it was knocked down. The Russian fighters dumped fuel on the drone and flew in front of it before the collision.
“Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,” Air Force Gen. James Hecker, commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said in a statement. “In fact, this unsafe and unprofessional act by the Russians nearly caused both aircraft to crash.”