Kremlin forces reportedly found the downed US MQ-9 Reaper drone at a depth of up to 2,953ft in the Black Sea off the main naval port of Sevastopol, according to Russian media.
A source close to the Russian Defense Ministry reportedly told ForPost, a publication in annexed Crimea: “An underwater robot descended to the bottom of the sea and detected the MQ-9 Reaper at a depth of about 850-900 meters”.
“The deepwater branch of the South Stream pipeline passes not far from this area.”
The report says Russian naval forces are “on duty in the area where the US military reconnaissance vehicle fell.”
A day earlier, Russian sources had claimed in leaked radio transmissions that debris from the US drone had been found on the surface.
There has been no official confirmation of ForPost’s claim.
It is unclear how long a Russian rescue operation might take to recover the downed drone.
Released footage shows moment Russian fighter dumped fuel on US drone
Russian media claimed Kremlin forces found the downed US drone near the port
Officials familiar with US intelligence on the incident that led to the downing of a US Reaper drone said the ‘highest levels’ of the Kremlin approved the ‘aggressive’ Russian interception over the sea Black.
Earlier today, newly declassified footage from the Pentagon showed the moment a Russian fighter jet crashed into a US MQ-9 Reaper drone in international airspace over the Black Sea.
The accident is the first direct confrontation between Russia and the United States since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Russia previously claimed it did not make contact with the drone after the UAV was forced to descend over international waters on March 14.
But the new footage appeared to show the clip of the Su-27 on the drone’s propeller after it hovered and dumped fuel.
Dashcam footage showed damage to the drone before it crashed into the Black Sea.
Moscow had said it would work to salvage the wreckage in what would be a propaganda coup for Vladimir Putin, having earlier warned that he “would view any action with American weapons as openly hostile”.
US officials also assured that measures had been taken to ensure that no information could be recovered by foreign actors from the remains of the drone.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said: “In terms of the loss of any sensitive items… intelligence, etc., as usual, we would take – and we took mitigation measures – so we are absolutely convinced that anything that was valuable is no longer valuable.
After the new footage emerged, Tories warned there must be ‘consequences’ of a Russian fighter jet attacking a US drone – amid a race to recover the wreckage.
Defense Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood said the “incredible” incident was an example of how quickly tensions can escalate.
Mr Ellwood told the Express: “This incident illustrates how drone warfare changes the character of conflict.
“Russia would not have spilled fuel if the plane had been manned.”
He added: “This was a blatant attack over international airspace and should not pass without consequences.”
The newly declassified clip shared today shows the unmanned drone making contact with a Russian aircraft after flying “near” the aircraft for 30-40 minutes just after 7:00 a.m. CET (6:00 a.m. GMT) on Tuesday.
The sequence video, edited by the US military for length, shows one of two Russian jets flying over international waters coming to a halt on the drone, approaching from behind.
According to US officials, the MQ-9 Reaper drone was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 jets which dumped fuel on the drone before cutting off its propeller, forcing it to crash.
US $ 32 million Reaper drone taken out of the sky by Russia
An American MQ-9 Reaper drone (left) and a Russian Su-27 fighter jet (right)
Video shows Russian fighter approaching US drone from behind and starting to release fuel as it passes – Pentagon says
The plane begins to dump fuel on the drone before the camera takes damage
The drone’s camera stabilizes after the SU-27 passes, cutting its propeller
After impact, the on-board camera shows a broken propeller (L) and a comparative operational propeller (R) rotating. Russia previously said it had not made contact with the drone
The jet is shown to dump fuel as it passes. Fuel dumping is typically used by aircraft in emergency situations to lose weight.
The drone’s camera sustains damage before being forced to make an emergency landing in international waters below.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called Russia’s actions reckless and dangerous.
But the Russian Defense Ministry pushed back, saying in a statement: “Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons and did not come into contact with the US drone.”
“Due to sudden maneuvers, the US drone entered uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the surface of the water.”