A RUSSIAN fighter jet has blasted flares at a US Reaper drone in a clash over the Middle East, reports claim.
The incident happened on Sunday, when an MQ-9 Reaper was conducting air reconnaissance, US officials say.
Chilling footage from the clash shows a Russian SU-35 fighter jet ascending close to the unmanned aerial vehicle.
It then appears to drop a barrage of flares in the direct flight path of the drone.
The projectiles struck one of the propellers and badly damaged the US aircraft, it was reported.
A US Air Force Central spokesman claimed the incident took place during a mission targeting ISIS thugs.
Lieutenant General Alexus Grynkewich said: “On July 23, 2023, at 12.23am a Russian fighter aircraft flew dangerously close to a US MQ-9 drone on a defeat-ISIS mission.
“It harassed the MQ-9 and deployed flares from a position directly overhead, with only a few metres of separation between aircraft.
“One of the Russian flares struck the US MQ-9, severely damaging its propeller.
“Fortunately, the MQ-9 crew was able to maintain flight and safely recover the aircraft to its home base.”
It comes after another fleet of Russian planes reportedly attacked US drones twice this month in the same region.
On July 5, Russian SU-35 fighter jets sent flares towards several US drones putting all aircraft involved at serious risk of crashing.
Footage from the incident showed the MQ-9 Reapers making crafty manoeuvres to dodge the attacks.
Grynkewich added: “The Russian fighter’s blatant disregard for flight safety detracts from our mission to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.
“We call upon the Russian forces in Syria to put an immediate end to this reckless, unprovoked, and unprofessional behaviour.
“Adhere to the standards expected of a professional air force, so we can resume our focus on the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
The US Air Force claimed it would address the incidents but aimed to prevent any escalation of tensions in the region.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Air Force has repeatedly wreaked havoc in the airspace above Ukraine.
In March, dramatic footage showed the moment a Russian jet dumped fuel on a Reaper drone before crashing into it.
The drone was subsequently taken down while flying over the Black Sea near Russian-occupied Crimea.
It was the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US aircraft had been brought down by the Russians.
The US has been sending drones over the Black Sea since the Ukraine war started but has now warned the flights could be a flashpoint with Russia.
“This incident follows a pattern of dangerous actions by Russian pilots while interacting with US and Allied aircraft over international airspace, including over the Black Sea,” said the command.
“These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation.”
EYES IN THE SKY: What is a US Reaper drone?
THE United States’ Reaper drone, also known as the MQ-9, is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used primarily for surveillance, reconnaissance, and precision strike missions.
The drone is larger and more advanced than the Raptor/Predator drone, and has a longer range and endurance.
Some of the capabilities of the Reaper drone include:
Surveillance and reconnaissance
The Reaper drone is equipped with a variety of sensors and cameras that allow it to gather intelligence and conduct surveillance from a distance. This makes it useful for monitoring enemy activities, identifying targets, and assessing damage after a strike.
The Reaper drone can carry a range of weapons, including Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II bombs, and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). This makes it a versatile tool for precision strikes on enemy positions, vehicles, and personnel.
Long flight time
The Reaper drone has a maximum endurance of up to 27 hours, allowing it to stay aloft for extended periods of time and cover vast areas of territory.
The Reaper drone is capable of signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT), which allows it to intercept and analyze enemy communications and electronic emissions.
In addition to its primary mission, the Reaper drone is also capable of engaging in air-to-air combat using air-to-air missiles, making it a potent tool for aerial warfare.