Reports in Russia say Moscow has located the drone’s wreckage in the Black Sea (Pictures: Getty)
Russia claims it has won the race to find the downed US Reaper spy drone at the bottom of the Black Sea, reports say.
The MQ-9 was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets and one struck its propeller, causing it to crash into deep waters.
De-classified footage of the intercept was released by the United States on Thursday, showing one of the warplanes flying very close to the unmanned drone and dumping fuel near it.
The White House said the clip disproves Russia’s claims the aircraft crashed after ‘sharp manoeuvring’ and denials that the jets made any contact with it.
National security spokesman John Kirby said: ‘It absolutely just decimates the Russian lie about what they said happened or what they said didn’t happen.
‘It’s pretty darn obvious when you look at that video that (the) fighter jet hit our drone.’
The downing of the MQ-9 on Tuesday was the first direct US-Russian incident since the Ukraine war began, worsening already tense relations between Washington and Moscow.
Now Russia is reported to have located the drone nearly 3,000ft underwater in the Black Sea near the port of Sevastopol.
A source close to the Russian defence ministry told ForPost, a publication in annexed Crimea: ‘An underwater robot has descended to the seabed and detected the MQ-9 Reaper at a depth of about 850-900 metres.
‘The deep-water branch of the South Stream gas pipeline runs not far from this area.’
The report said that Russian naval forces are ‘on duty in the area where the US military reconnaissance vehicle fell’.
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It follows claims from Russian sources in leaked radio transmissions that some debris from the American drone had been found on the surface.
One exchange says: ‘Do you observe any objects?’
‘We raised part of the object.’
‘And what is this part?’
‘It’s the casing of an engine.’
There was no official confirmation of the ForPost claim.
It is unclear how long a Russian salvage operation might take to raise the downed drone.
Screengrab of a video clip released by the United States Defense Department’s European Command showing a Russian Su-27 fighter jet flying near an American MQ-9 Reaper drone (Picture: Getty)
US officials have insisted nothing of military value would remain from the drone even if Russia managed to retrieve the wreckage.
They left open the possibility of trying to recover portions of the downed $32 million aircraft, which they said crashed into waters that were up to 5,000ft deep, but the US has no ships in the area.
Russia and NATO member countries routinely intercept each other’s …read more