Ukraine War Day #388: Russian Mavericks Rewarded

Dear Readers:

We all remember a few days back, that thrilling dogfight over the Black Sea, involving an American Reaper Drone MQ-9 versus a Russian Sukhoi-27 jet. The jet won.

We recall that the Americans were really p*ssed off, and yet acting sort of intimidated at the same time. They accused the Russians of “reckless and unprofessional” behavior; even said the Russian pilots rammed the drone. Clearly the incident rattled their cage. They made it sound like this was double-Maverick Tom Cruise, just running wild in the sky and acting all crazy and mavericky.

“Take THAT, you stupid dumb drone!”

Yesterday we learned that Russian Defense Minister Shoigu, instead of reprimanding the hot-dogging pilots, chose to award them with medals [and, although the article doesn’t say so, I am guessing they also get a cash prize]. When reading my translation of the RIA piece, also keep in mind that the Americans be bitching that they were over “international waters” at the time of the incident. Technically, that’s probably true, but the Russian side has an answer for that.


Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, General Sergei Shoigu handed out awards to the pilots of the Su-27 who prevented the American MQ-9 drone from violating the boundaries of the region of temporary regime of use of airspace, established for the duration of the Special Military Operation.

The Ministry had previously alerted users of this airspace as to the temporary boundaries, in accordance with international norms.

[yalensis: In other words, this was a completely justified safety measure, as done in all wars, according to international agreements, in order to prevent potential civilian loss of life in a war zone, by establishing temporary no-fly zones.]

According to information possessed by the Ministry, the incident took place Tuesday morning in the region of Crimea. An American drone, with its transponders switched OFF, was flying in the direction of Russia, having violated the boundaries of the region of temporary regime of use of airspace, established for the duration of the Special Military Operation.

After the drone was spotted, Russian destroyers from the Air Defense forces patrol, took to the sky. The drone resorted to some sharp maneuvering, which led it to lose control, lose altitude, and fall into the sea. The Russian destroyers never entered into contact with the drone, never employed any on-board weapons, and returned safely to their base.

[yalensis: I sort of believe the Russians. Americans claim the jet rammed or at least dinged the drone, but a lot of commenters have pointed out that, at those kinds of speeds, even the slightest ding, even with a small object, would have sent the jet itself crashing into the sea. But you never know… Plus, why would the pilots be rewarded, unless they did something really cool?]

The American government claims that the drone fell because the Russian jet rammed its propeller, located in the aft part of its hull.

[yalensis: Again, those would be the actions of a very skilled maverick!]

As Russian Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov has declared, Washington is not taking into account the fact that the Black Sea area is now restricted air space, since the start of the Special Military Operation. Lavrov pointed out that such actions on the part of the Americans look like a provocation designed to increase tensions in the area. In the words of the Minister, the Americans are always claiming that they are a responsible power, interested in strategic stability. None the less, their actions do not match their deeds.

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29 Responses to Ukraine War Day #388: Russian Mavericks Rewarded

  1. Liborio Guaso says:

    In the dirty world we live in it may be normal that the drone flight was scheduled to have a sad end as part of the western media show. Interestingly Western nuclear bombers patrol Russia’s borders in open provocation and are never molested.


  2. MrDomingo says:

    Until I read your translation here, all descriptions of incident explicitly stated that Reaper drone was flying with transponder OFF, so which is it? To quote:
    “An American drone, with its transponders switched on, was”


  3. No, hitting the drone would not necessarily have crashed the fighter.


    Hitting only the propeller was a nearly impossible thing to do, simply because the Y tail of the Reaper extends beyond the prop arc at the 11, 2, and 6 o’clock position. Clipping the prop would have involved hitting one or more of the tail surfaces as well.

    The much more likely answer is that the combination of shockwaves from the repeated close flybys (allegedly 19 or 20) and the load of fuel striking the air intakes combined to down the drone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JMF says:

      Intriguingly, the video released by the US itself does NOT support that adamant claim about the Russian pilots clipping the prop. (At least that’s what I’ve read; I’m video-incapable currently.)


    • JMF says:

      Clarification of mine just above; the link apparently includes the video:

      US Releases Video of Drone Encounter With Russian Fighters

      … The video doesn’t show any contact between the drone and the Russian fighters, but one blade of the MQ-9 propeller does appear to be damaged at the end of the 42-second video. …


      • yalensis says:

        If video is available to the human race, that means the drone must have been streaming its video to some NATO server BEFORE it went down into the sea? I wonder if there is any underwater video… gurgle…. gurgle….


      • Simplicius has also mentioned that the apparent bend in the prop might also be an optical illusion caused by freezing one frame in a video of a rapidly spinning object. There are apparently gaps and missing bits of the drone video that have not been released by U.S. authorities. I haven’t seen anything with gyrating views as the drone spirals into the drink, f’rinstance.


        • yalensis says:

          Simplicius is very good on this topic. There seems to be quite a lot of interest out there. Drone porn… (?)


        • JMF says:

          Interesting, Bukko. I would never be surprised by my [US] government manipulating such footage (or facts, for that matter) to suit its own “agenda”. Been there, seen it, far too many times already.


    • Who amongst yez rides a pushbike (the word Aussies use for “bicycle”)? When you’re riding along a two-lane road, and a big truck going the other direction goes by you at high speed, what does the air impact of that feel like? Whoom! And that’s at a combined approach speed of maybe 120 kph (you riding 20 kph one way, the truck going maybe 100 kph the opposite way.) And you, the bicyclist, is solidly on the ground, so you’re relatively stable, but you get buffeted a bit. I think about this when I want to viscerally imagine what happened to the drone.

      A Reaper would be flying at least 200 kph in one direction, probably more like 250 (125 to 150 miles per hour, for you Americans with your archaic measuring systems.) It takes a certain amount of airspeed to stay aloft, but if someone is spying, they’re not going to want to pass over the surveillance area too fast, or else they can’t suck up enough electronic and visual signals. The SU-27 is going to be coming at it going, let’s say, at least 400 kph, probably more like 500. They’re pissed off and intending to do some disruption. I haven’t seen any speculation on whether they had gone supersonic, which would have created a bigger shock wave. So you’ve got a combined approach speed of 600 to 750 kph. Big WHOOM! Without the stability of the ground underneath, like I’d have on my bike when a big rig blows past.

      IANAM (I Am Not A Maverick) so I don’t know how much turbulence a drone is designed to handle. There’s wind up there in the sky! so I’m sure their flight characteristics are not too delicate. Still, how much unexpected air disturbance will their autopilot programs be engineered for? What are the stall characteristics of that type of drone? How much of the active flying is being done by a human at some control base? Is that base in Romania, or Nevada, or who knows where? Even at the speed of light, there’s going to be a time lag between when the drone’s camera shows “Uh-oh — spinning unpredictably!” and when that’s seen at the control base, and then when the operator sends the signals to counteract the spin. The farther away from the drone that the control base is, the longer the lag. And that’s assuming that the human controller is super-fast at figuring out how to correct the spin. There are many types of spin patterns when an aircraft loses its aerodynamic capabilities, and good pilots have a hard enough time trying to correct them when they’re physically in a plane.

      Drone controllers are trained to do spying and assassination runs against goat herders in Afghanistan, but the goats don‘t fight back. I don’t think “recovery from aggressive manoeuvres by opposition jet planes” would be part of a drone operator’s standard training package. Simplicius, as other commenters have pointed out, has done some great analysis on ramifications of this. Whoever the guy is, he’s smart!

      One more word about the transponder. That seems to be a big bugbear with the Russians. Even in a war situation, there are protocols between the fighting sides that are supposed to be observed. I have read, but not from any official source, that they’re supposed to be turned on when flights of anything are going on over the Black Sea. That way, people with itchy trigger fingers know who’s who. Turn a transponder off, it looks suspicious. If you were going to shoot off a missile, for instance, you’d do it without broadcasting your location or identity. OTOH, running a flight with a transponder off might be a ploy to determine what radar system, at which location, using what frequencies, would be used in such a situation. That way, when you did a REAL sneak attack mission on a moonless night with your stealth drone, you’d have an edge.

      Are you old enough to remember the “Spy vs. Spy” cartoon panels from Mad Magazine? The world’s getting like that, more than it’s ever been, and that was always plenty. But there are fewer guidelines being followed these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. S Brennan says:

    1] You fly into contested airspace with the intent to war against your undeclared enemy. 2] You are interdicted by said undeclared enemy, you are warned off but you…
    3] Pretend that reality does not exist, you continue on in your war machine.
    4] Then your enemy forces your aircraft to the ground.

    Shocked at the outcome, 1] you whine, 2] you alert the media that you are whining and 3] they alert the world that you are whining. You go to your “locally owned” Kangaroo Court and bring an indictment against your undeclared enemy. Wow…talk about a supreme manifestation of marshal vigor.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the neighborhood notices that you are impotent and publicly wailing about your inability. Yes it’s another “heck of a job” by DC’s Clinton/Bush/Obama/Biden administration [singular intended] humiliating themselves.

    So sit back and I will tell you a tail of Children, a Bear and Adults

    The boys & girls of the Clinton/Bush/Obama/Biden administration [singular intended] went out into the northern forest in search of monsters. Not finding one, they kept poking at an old sleeping bear, finally they managed to enrage the bear enough to rouse it from it’s slumber. Giggling with glee the children fled back into the village to raise a hunting party for the old bear. But…many of the villagers remember years ago when the old bear fought off a pack wolves who were trying to consume village’s special child Europa and are reluctant to help spoiled truant children make trouble for the old noble beast. So, to teach the miscreants a lesson, the villagers gathered up all the broken stone spear & arrow heads they could find and then sent the children back into the forest to fight the bear. “But..but..what about the bows…what about the spears”; the children cry? “You’ll have to make them along the way”; they are told. “But…but..we never learned how to make spears and arrows, we never learned to hunt…we had better things to do. Joey, Barry, Billy & Hilda told the villagers “you must hunt the bear and we will tend to the village while you’re gone”. At hearing this the villagers smiled, those children stole just about everything not nailed down the last time they listened to those imps and marched off into forest in search of some make believe monster.

    …to be continued.


  5. Chris G says:

    So, can I assume that the Russian jet dumping its fuel on the drone was to force it down but not destroy it, as with a missile of automatic cannon fire? In that way the Russians could recover a largely intact prize of war–the better to reverse engineer?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. JMF says:

    Nice to see those plucky pilots be rewarded. However they accomplished it, that was some very fine work.

    Take THAT, Uncle Scam!


  7. countrumford says:

    Certainly the drone has video of the entire attack. We have only seen a small piece of the evidence. Why?

    Does an SU27 have a tail hook?


    • yalensis says:

      I googled that question, Mr. Wiki says:

      The production Su-27K featured the required strengthened landing gear with a two-wheel nose gear assembly, folding stabilators and wings, outer ailerons that extended further with inner double slotted flaps and enlarged leading-edge slats for low-speed carrier approaches, modified LERX (Leading Edge Root eXtension) with canards, a modified ejection seat angle, upgraded FBW, upgraded hydraulics, an arresting hook and retractable in-flight refuelling probe with a pair of deployable floodlights in the nose to illuminate the tanker at night. The Su-27K began carrier trials in November 1989, again with Pugachev at the controls, on board the first Soviet aircraft carrier, called Tbilisi at the time and formal carrier operations commenced in September 1991.[15][16]

      I have no idea what most of that means, but I think the “arresting hook” is the same thing as the tail hook. Mind you, they are talking about earlier models, and it seems these things keep evolving and changing.


      • countrumford says:

        I think they may have deployed the tail hook and it whacked the propeller. The goal was not to destroy the drone but disable it and recover it. A rocket hit would leave nothing. I think the drone operator dove into the sea after the propeller was injured. The us and the russsians know for sure but nobody is talking. Why?


        • yalensis says:

          If you’re right, that would be a very clever use of the tail-hook. Because it is designed to withstand an instantaneous DECELERATION. Yikes!
          As to why nobody is talking… well, these are all state secrets after all. If they told you what really happened, then they would have to kill you!


  8. Mark Chapman says:

    “…also keep in mind that the Americans be bitching that they were over “international waters” at the time of the incident. Technically, that’s probably true, but the Russian side has an answer for that.”

    Not necessarily. According to this (good resource, by the way)

    geolocation using points of land which appear in the background of the American video itself place the drone probably not more than 30 miles off the southern tip of Crimea, rather than the 250 or so the US contends.

    The tail hook drops out of the belly and is designed to snag the arrestor wire which is deployed less than a foot off the deck. It would drop down instead of to the rear and deploying it in flight would not impede the propeller. The Reaper is likely designed for carrier-deck recovery if necessary.


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