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The $32million MQ-9 Reaper taken out of the sky by Russia

The $32million MQ-9 Reaper taken out of the sky by Russia

The $32m Reaper drone taken out of the sky by Russia: The unmanned plane is equipped with Hellfire missiles, can fly for 20 hours at 300 mph – and was used by the CIA to kill the leader of Al- Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri

  • The MQ-9 Reaper drone can fly 1,150 miles or 20 hours and can be armed
  • US says one was shot down by Russia’s ‘dangerous and unprofessional interception’
  • They are mainly used for surveillance, but can also perform precision strikes

The $32 million MQ-9 Reaper drone shot down in the Black Sea after a clash with Russian warplanes on Tuesday is the same type of aircraft used by the CIA to kill al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul in July 2022.

Equipped for long-range surveillance missions, the unmanned spy plane is controlled by two pilots on the ground – sometimes up to 5,000 miles away – can fly for 20 hours or 1,150 miles and gather intelligence at an altitude of up to ‘at 52,000 ft.

Pentagon officials said one was blasted out of the sky by a “dangerous and unprofessional interception” by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets early Tuesday.

The encounter sent shockwaves around the world and sparked a blame game between Washington and the Kremlin over who was responsible.

As tensions escalated, NATO warplanes were dispatched on Wednesday to intercept two Russian planes over the Black Sea.

Sometimes used for deadly precision strikes, the drones can reach speeds between 200 and 300 mph and are armed with Hellfire missiles.

Explosives in missiles are often replaced with switchblades to kill targets with such precision that they can hit someone sitting in a particular seat in a car.

When modified, the missiles were nicknamed the “Flying Ginsu” or the “Ninja Bomb”.

A total of eight laser-guided missiles and 16 Hellfire missiles can be loaded on board with 1,300 pounds of fuel.

The Pentagon has not confirmed whether the drone was armed when the Russian fighter jet collided with it, but it was likely on a reconnaissance mission.

General James B. Hecker said on Tuesday he was “conducting routine operations in international airspace.”

The Reapers have long conducted operations in the region and could have been flown in from countries like Romania or Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy.

They are mainly used for surveillance – with infrared systems and cameras – and for search and rescue missions.

In recent years, drones have flown over Iraq and Syria and have been used in Afghanistan in the nearly 18 months since the departure of US ground troops.

They are manufactured by General Atomics and the Air Force has ordered 360 since 2007.

Pentagon officials said Russian fighters harassed the drone by dumping fuel on it and flying past it, before a Su-27 cut off the drone’s propeller, forcing it to descend over the sea black, resulting in a total loss of the unmanned aircraft.

“This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being dangerous and unprofessional,” said Pentagon Air Force Press Secretary Brig. General Pat Ryder during a press briefing.

In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry denied colliding with the US drone, saying the US plane had made an “uncontrolled flight” due to “sudden maneuvers”.

The incident happened in international airspace, but not far from the battles raging on the front lines of the war in Ukraine, amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country.

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the incident, said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, who called Russia’s actions reckless and dangerous.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed the US drone was flying towards its airspace with its transponder turned off, and Russian fighters were sent to investigate.

“The Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons and did not come into contact with the American drone,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Due to abrupt maneuvers, the US drone entered uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the surface of the water,” the statement added.

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