The United States has defiantly launched an RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone into the same airspace which saw another drone downed by two Russian fighter jets. The news comes amid an escalating diplomatic crisis in which the US has vowed to continue surveillance.
According to Flightradar24, the RQ-4 Global Hawk with the call sign FORTE10 was headed over the Black Sea just south of the Crimean Peninsula.
The drone took off from Sigonella air base near the Italian city of Catania before circling in NATO ally Romania’s airspace for several hours, according to the website.
It then headed for international airspace over the Black Sea passing over the general area where an MQ-9 Reaper drone was downed by Russian forces earlier this week.
The US called the encounter, which saw the drone splash down, “dangerous, unprofessional and reckless” and released video footage of the incident appearing to show a Russian Su-27 fighter jet flying by and dumping fuel over the drone.
“If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying, operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, then that message will fail,” said White House spokesman John Kirby. He added that Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident.
He said: “We have been flying over that airspace consistently for a year now…and we’re going to continue to do that.”
The US now appears to be making good on that promise. The RQ-4 Global Hawk can perform in a similar role to the MQ-9 Reaper downed earlier this week.
The Global Hawk can stay in the air for up to 34 hours, reaching heights of 60,000 feet. From the Black Sea, US drones can likely see Russian activity on the Crimean Peninsula which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.
The RQ-4 seen today, passed over the southern half of the Black Sea – close to where the MQ-4 was shot down – before looping back into Romania.
Ukraine has vowed to take back the peninsula and it’s likely the US is providing Kyiv with intelligence on Russian movements there possibly ahead of a spring counteroffensive by Ukraine in the south or east of the country.
The US and NATO have provided Ukraine with intelligence both before and during the war, allowing Kyiv to plan its tactics with knowledge of Russian movements.
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