5:34 p.m. ET, March 16, 2023
Officials: US Now Weighing Benefits of Drone Intelligence Against Risks of Escalation with Russia
By CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann and Jim Sciutto
The United States is carrying out an assessment of its drone operations in the Black Sea region, weighing the costs and benefits of flights after Russia forced one of the planes earlier this week, several officials said. at CNN.
The US hasn’t completely halted flights while it completes the analysis – the military sent the same drone model, an MQ-9 Reaper, on a mission to roughly the same area above Black Sea shortly after the collision, U.S. officials said. . This plane was supposed to inspect the crash site and watch the Russians for debris.
But the US military is “looking closely” at drone routes and assessing how best to reduce the risk of conflict with the Russian military, which regularly flies fighter jets to and from Crimea, officials said. .
The Pentagon plans to analyze the overall costs and benefits of flying these missions, weighing the potential intelligence value of a particular route against the risk of escalation with Russia.
Some members of the US military are concerned that limiting drone routes could impact intelligence gathering related to the war in Ukraine, the senior military official said. But the United States has potential alternatives for collecting the information, such as spy satellites.
The United States is considering another drone flight over the Black Sea in the coming days, officials said, which would be in line with its typical operating schedule.
Russia has accused the United States of violating the airspace it claims to have created for its “special military operation” in Ukraine – a designation the United States does not accept. The officials also said that Russia had communicated no such airspace restrictions.
New footage released by the Pentagon on Thursday shows the Russian fighter jets rapidly approaching the drone, pouring fuel on it and appearing to damage the drone’s propeller. The United States was forced to shoot down the drone over the Black Sea after the impact rendered it effectively inoperable, officials said.