Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday the U.S. will not stop flights in international airspace after a Russian fighter jet clipped a U.S. drone propeller, causing a crash into the Black Sea.
“I know that everyone here has heard that Russian aircraft again engaged in dangerous, reckless and unprofessional practices on Tuesday in international airspace over the Black Sea,” Austin said.
Austin quickly summarized the incident, explaining, “Two Russian jets dumped fuel on an unmanned U.S. MQ-9 aircraft conducting routine operations in international airspace. And one Russian jet intercepted and hit our MQ-9 aircraft, resulting in a crash.”
Austin sharply criticized the Russian military for its actions, stating that the Black Sea incident was “a part of a pattern of aggressive and risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace.”
Austin assured the press that the incident will not have any effect on U.S. plans to continue operating within the area.
“So make no mistake, the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows. It is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner,” Austin said.
Russia is denying the aircraft touched one another, and accusing the U.S. of unnecessarily escalating the issue.
“We assume that the United States will refrain from further speculation in the media and stop flights near Russian borders,” said Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov on Wednesday.
He claimed that the drone crashed after undertaking “sharp maneuvers,” Reuters reports.