UK, Germany jets police Russian planes as Kremlin attempts to recover downed US drone

U.S. defense officials are unsure whether the drone can even be recovered.

Published: March 15, 2023 10:42am

Updated: March 15, 2023 11:46am

British and German fighter jets scrambled to intercept two Russian planes, officials announced Wednesday, as the Kremlin attempts to recover the downed U.S. drone that crashed over the Black Sea.

The Royal Air Force and the German Air Force conducted the first-ever joint NATO Air Policing interception on Tuesday after a Russian air-to-air refueling plane was not responding to communications and was flying near the airspace of Estonia, a NATO member, U.K. officials said.

The German and British Typhoon fighter jets successfully escorted the plane and were then tasked with intercepting a Russian AN148 airliner that was also close to Estonian airspace, authorities said.

"Any aircraft that are not communicating with Air Traffic Control or on a recognised flight plan will be intercepted by us to ensure we know who they are and maintain flight safety for all airspace users," the U.K. Typhoon pilot, who remains anonymous, said. "It is clear that all of our training and hard work paid off as we seamlessly operated together."

The U.K.-German policing occurred the same day that a Russian Su-27 fighter jet collided with a U.S. drone.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said that his country will attempt to recover the drone's wreckage. 

"I don’t know if we will be able to get it or not," he told the state-controlled Russia-1 TV on Wednesday, as translated. "I hope, of course, for success."

U.S. defense officials on Tuesday would not answer whether they would attempt a recovery effort.

However, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby on Wednesday told CNN: "I'm not sure that we're going to be able to recover it. I mean, where it fell into the Black Sea, very, very deep water. We're still assessing whether there can be any recovery effort mounted. There may not be."

He added: "We did the best we could to minimize any intelligence value that might come from somebody else getting their hands on that drone."

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