US drones fly further from Russia after crash, intel gathering curbed
A senior US military official says the new routes away from the Ukrainian war zone is to avoid "provocation".
Washington's decision to change its flying route over the Black Sea following the crash of the MQ-9 Reaper earlier this month has impacted intelligence gathering on the war in Ukraine, a senior US army official told CNN broadcaster on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, the US European Command claimed that a Russian Su-27 fighter jet dumped fuel on an American MQ-9 drone over the Black Sea and then collided with it, causing the drone to crash.
The command statement read, "a Russian Su-27 aircraft struck the propeller of a U.S. MQ-9 drone, causing U.S. forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters," adding that "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."
Read more: US debates sending Reaper drones to Ukraine: Politico
Russia denied US allegations and said the fighter jets sent to intercept it did not come into contact with the US drone nor did they use weapons against it, pointing out that the drone crashed due to "sharp maneuvering".
Attempting to collect intel while flying from a distance from the war zone will be very limiting, the official told CNN on condition of anonymity.
The senior military official revealed to the news channel that the decision aims to maintain the distant new routes “to avoid being too provocative,” adding that this measure is only “for the time being."
These claims come despite Pentagon's earlier position following the drone incident that the US will continue to “fly and operate wherever international law allows.”
A Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told the news channel: “We’re not going to discuss missions, routes, or timing of operations. We’re also not going to discuss intelligence operations other than to say we maintain a robust ISR capability in the region and beyond.”
Read more: Russia to retaliate if US keeps flying drones over Black Sea: Moscow