Russia Will Retrieve Wreckage of Crashed U.S. Drone, Spy Chief Claims

UNSPECIFIED, UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 07: Contract workers load a Hellfire missile onto a U.
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The U.S. Reaper drone that crashed in the Black Sea Tuesday will be recovered and studied, a Russian spy chief claims, as the two countries tousle over how exactly the unmanned aircraft was brought down.

An MQ-9 Reaper attack-reconnaissance drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday morning, prompting the United States Air Force (USAF) to accuse Russia of having acted in an “environmentally unsound” manner by dumping aviation fuel onto the drone before striking its propeller, causing it to lose power and crash. Russia for their part denied having come into contact with the drone, stating it crashed by itself without their help.

Now Russia says it will attempt to recover the drone from the deep international waters of the Black Sea, near Russia-occupied Crimea, to study the USAF drone. The director of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency Sergey Naryshkin made the comments, according to Russian state wire service TASS, when he said of the ability of Russia to retrieve the wreckage: “The way I see it, there are such technical capabilities”.

Speaking on Russian television on Wednesday, Naryshkin said of the United States operating in international airspace: “They have been very actively using all means of space surveillance, visual and radio reconnaissance… We know and understand in detail what goals the Americans have been pursuing with their recon activities and use of technical means as we try to identify the facilities and territories that are of the greatest interest to them.”

Adding to Naryshkin’s comments, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev confirmed an attempt to recover the advanced drone would take place, remarking: “I don’t know if we can recover or not, but we will certainly have to do that, and we will deal with it… I am hoping that it will be a success”.

While Russia seems enthusiastic about its chances, the United States seems less sure. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, per The Guardian that the wreck had not been recovered by the U.S. and that it was unlikely. He is reported to have said: “It has not been recovered. And I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to recover it… Where it fell into the Black Sea [is] very, very deep water. So we’re still assessing whether there can be any kind of recovery effort. There may not be.”

Yet the Russians, as impossible as it may seem, could very well have an advantage in recovering the remains of the drone over the United States. While the U.S. is not thought to presently have any warships in the Black Sea, Russia has what remains of its Black Sea Fleet including the Kommuna.

The oldest working, active-duty warship in the world, the Kommuna was laid down in 1912 during the era of the old Russian Empire and is a rare double-hulled salvage ship. While it may seem incredible that a ship of that age could still function in the Russian Navy, which does not have the best reputation for keeping its assets in good condition, the Kommuna was deployed last year after Ukraine sunk the guided missile cruiser Moskva, implying it is still serviceable.

Russian Salvage ship Kommuna (1912) at Sevastopol in 2008. The gantries above span the gap between the two hulls, allowing the large ship to raise wrecks, and lower diving submersibles / Public Domain image via WIkimedia


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