Moscow has recovered components from the US surveillance drone that was destroyed by two Russian fighter jets last week, according to intercepted military radio traffic.
Just hours after the March 14 incident, radio traffic from the Russian fight to save the MQ-9 Reaper drone was captured by amateurs on unencrypted channels, according to the New York Times.
Clips of the radio traffic reveal conversations between various Russian ships and planes about attempts to recover the drone’s engine casing, nose, wing and fuel tank.
‘Right now, we’ve shown three parts of the frame,’ a unit codenamed Apelsin (orange) broadcasts. Now I’m heading towards the helicopter to look for more.
Pentagon officials have said that any sensitive information was remotely wiped from the drone’s software after an Su-27 fighter jet jammed its propeller during a close pass, and that the recovered debris will have little military value.
Hours after Russian Su-27 fighter jets (above) destroyed a US drone, Russia began salvage operations and recovered some wreckage, radio intercepts suggest.
Pictured: The Prof Vodyanitskiy research vessel in Russia, said to be part of the search for the drone wreckage in the Black Sea.
“What’s left of that float is probably going to be flight control surfaces, that kind of thing, probably nothing of real intrinsic value to them in terms of reengineering or anything like that,” National Security Council spokesman John F. told CNN. .Kirby.
“We’re not too concerned about whatever they might get their hands on,” he added.
The downing of the US surveillance drone was the first direct military incident between the US and Russia since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine began a year ago.
The US Navy currently has no warships operating in the Black Sea and is not believed to be conducting a salvage operation on the surface of the waterway.
Recently released radio communications indicate that Russian rescue ships from the Russian-controlled Crimean port of Sevastopol headed for the area where the drone crashed into the water within eight hours of the incident.
Bits of the broadcasts spanned about four hours and included repeated conversations about declining fuel reserves and concerns about returning to port.
Mentions of Sevastopol and the nearby Striletska Bay help confirm that rescue ships were operating in the area where the drone went down.
Radio transmissions refer to unit code names including Orange, Hedgehog, Tenacious, and Neptune.
Russian media claimed that Kremlin forces had found the downed US drone near the port.
Telegram channels indicate that the special purpose vessels Fizik (in a file photo) and Professor Vodyanitskiy sailed to or near the suspected location of the wreckage.
Separately, information from social media indicates that the special-purpose ships Fizik and Professor Vodyanitskiy sailed to or near the suspected location of the wreckage in the Black Sea.
Furthermore, a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Kremlin forces had found the downed Reaper drone as deep as 2,953 feet in the Black Sea near Sevastopol.
Moscow has not officially recognized a rescue operation, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the military would decide whether to attempt a recovery.
This is the prerogative of the military. If they find it necessary to do that in the Black Sea for our interests and our security, they will take care of it,’ Pescov said last week.
US officials have said that Russia deliberately forced the drone down into international airspace, possibly in an attempt to seize its data, by dumping jet fuel on it and hitting one of its propellers as it whizzed by.
Russia insists the drone was operating within a “temporary airspace regime” established for its invasion of Ukraine, claiming the drone crashed after the operator lost control due to “abrupt maneuvering.”
An MQ-9 Reaper drone is seen in a file photo. The downing of the US surveillance drone was the first direct US-Russian military incident since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
US officials said the MQ-9 Reaper drone was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 jets that dumped fuel on the drone before cutting off its propeller, forcing it to crash.
That account was contradicted by drone footage, released by the Pentagon, which showed Russian planes harassing the American plane by flying extremely close and dropping jet fuel on it.
It also showed the loss of video feed after another nearby Russian maneuver, which the Pentagon says was caused by a Russian plane colliding with the drone.
The video ends with footage of the drone’s damaged propeller, which the Pentagon says was caused by the collision, rendering the plane inoperable and leading it to crash in the Black Sea.
On Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the pilots of the two Russian fighters would be rewarded for shooting down the drone.
Since then, the United States has resumed surveillance drone flights over the Black Sea region, authorities said.