On November 17, 2015, an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) was seen flying during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. The US Pentagon has plans to expand combat air patrols flights by remotely piloted aircraft by as much as 50 percent over the next few years to meet an increased need for surveillance, reconnaissance and lethal airstrikes in more areas around the world.
On March 16, 2021, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet collided with a US Reaper drone, causing it to crash into the Black Sea. The US Air Force reported that the Russian jets had been performing unsafe manoeuvres, including dumping fuel on the MQ-9 drone and flying in front of it, prior to the collision. The US military described the incident as part of a ‘pattern of dangerous actions’ from Russian pilots. The US State Department is now in contact with Russian counterparts to express concern over the ‘unsafe and unprofessional intercept.’ NATO’s top military commander has said that allies have been briefed on the incident.
The Black Sea lies between Europe and Asia and is bordered by Russia and Ukraine among other countries. As tensions between Moscow and Washington continue to escalate, US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the incident. The US Air Force General James Hecker has said that ‘US and Allied aircraft will continue to operate in international airspace and we call on the Russians to conduct themselves professionally and safely.’