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17 Mar, 2023 08:04

US ‘taking close look’ at drone operations – CNN

The Pentagon wants to avoid escalation with Russia, but has not stopped flying over the Black Sea, officials told the outlet
US ‘taking close look’ at drone operations – CNN

The US is weighing the benefits and risks of drone flights over the Black Sea after losing an unmanned aircraft that was being tracked by Russian interceptors, CNN reported on Thursday, citing sources.

On Tuesday, Washington claimed that two Russian Su-27 fighters dumped fuel on a MQ-9 Reaper drone conducting a reconnaissance flight in the area, with one jet later colliding with the US aircraft.

Moscow’s Ministry of Defense, however, dismissed the accusation, insisting that its interceptors had neither come into contact with the Reaper nor fired a weapon, saying that the drone crashed due to “sharp maneuvers.”

Several officials have told CNN that the US is now “weighing the costs and benefits” of further drone operations. At the same time, Washington has not entirely halted flights while the review is underway, the report says, and another Reaper was sent to monitor Russian forces searching for the debris.

Pentagon officials say they are “taking a close look” at US drone routes and at ways to reduce the risk of clashing with Moscow’s military in the area. They are also said to be analyzing the potential intelligence benefits of such missions compared with the danger of escalation.

One senior official told CNN the US was concerned that curbing drone activities could adversely affect intelligence gathering related to the Ukraine conflict. However, the US could still rely on other assets such as satellites, the report states.

Despite the ongoing review, Washington is considering flying another drone over the Black Sea in the near future, US officials said, without providing further detail.

The US has significantly ramped up intelligence operations close to Russian borders, seeking to provide Ukraine with valuable data. Moscow has repeatedly insisted that such activities make the US a direct party to the conflict.

On Friday, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who now serves as deputy chairman of the Security Council, blasted the US for sending its drone into the restricted flight area that Moscow has imposed due to the Ukraine conflict.

“To put it simply, the Americans went way out of line, and there is no need to stand on ceremony with them,” he said, while recognizing the value of contacts between the Russian and US militaries.