Washington: The United States has completely stopped flying its Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft over the Black Sea, following the incident with a US MQ-9 Reaper drone in the Black Sea waters off Russia’s Crimea, the data of the Flightradar24 tracker website, analyzed by Sputnik, has shown.
In mid-March, the US government alleged that a Russian fighter jet dumped fuel on and collided with a US MQ-9 Reaper drone flying near Crimea, eventually leading its operators to bring the unmanned aircraft into the Black Sea. Russia denied attacking the drone in any way, saying the drone operators’ poor and sharp maneuvering resulted in the aircraft falling into the Black Sea.
According to Flightradar24’s archive of tracks, the last time a US Global Hawk drone flew over the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea was on March 21. Since then, US unmanned surveillance aircraft based in Italy’s Sicily have not entered the airspace over the Black Sea. Before that, since the launch of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the US military had been making an average of 8-10 reconnaissance flights per month over the sea.
From March 21 to April 20, US Global Hawks drones made only three flights from the airbase in Sicily, according to the tracker website. However, these flights have been made within the boundaries of the Romanian airspace at a distance of over 400 kilometers (248 miles) from Crimea — outside the range of drones’ radar systems, which are capable of receiving radar images of an area at a maximum range of 200 kilometers.
A source familiar with the matter has confirmed to Sputnik that the last time a US Global Hawk surveillance drone flew over the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea was on March 21.
“Following the incident with the American Reaper drone, which fell into the waters of the Black Sea on April 14, Global Hawks made only two more flights over the Black Sea — on March 17 and March 21 — both at a range no closer than 140 kilometers from the southern coast of Crimea. Apparently, the US command considered further flights in this area impractical. On the one hand, the amount of information received by a drone at such a range is sharply reduced; on the other hand, after March 14, the American side faced the danger of losing such equipment, and a Global Hawk is several times more expensive than a Reaper and is loaded with the most advanced equipment,” the sources said.
The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft operated by the US Air Force as a high-altitude long-endurance platform to collect intelligence and support forces in worldwide military operations. Global Hawks are capable of flying for up to 36 hours at a distance of up to 22,000 kilometers. The drones are equipped with various reconnaissance equipment, including radars, optical tracking systems, and infrared sensors.