Did the Russians Intercept an American Drone?

Well, this is interesting. A Russian company is claiming that it intercepted an American drone flying over Crimea:

Moscow (AFP) – A United States surveillance drone has been intercepted above the Ukranian region of Crimea, a Russian state arms and technology group said Friday.

“The drone was flying at about 4,000 metres (12,000 feet) and was virtually invisible from the ground. It was possible to break the link with US operators with complex radio-electronic” technology, said Rostec in a statement.

The drone fell “almost intact into the hands of self-defence forces” added Rostec, which said it had manufactured the equipment used to down the aircraft, but did not specify who was operating it.

“Judging by its identification number, UAV MQ-5B belonged to the 66th American Reconnaissance Brigade, based in Bavaria,” Rostec said on its website, which also carried a picture of what it said was the captured drone.

There’s an enormous amount of tantalizing information packed into a two hundred some-odd word news report. American drone over Crimea. Brought down using technology from Russian electronics firm. Brought down intact. And so on.

If true, it has some very troubling implications. Foremost among them is I don’t know how you make a credible complaint about Russians violating Ukrainian sovereignty if you’re violating it yourself.


This is getting even more interesting rapidly. Rostec, the company that produced the equipment that reportedly brought down the drone which it calls “Autobase” has denied the report:

Rostec State Corporation does not confirm the information concerning the facts of use of the “Autobase” technical utility on the Crimea Peninsula, which was published in a number of mass media.

The State Corporation bears responsibility for the quality of its products but is by no means responsible for the relocation and the results of the use of the equipment supplied by the Corporation’s organizations within the framework of contractors’ orders.

characterizing the above as an “official denial”. Never believe anything until it’s been officially denied.

The original article reporting the interception is here. If it’s as interesting as it appears I may produce a translation.

Update 2

The article isn’t interesting enough to translate. There are only two interesting additional tidbits in it. The first is the claim that they’ve observed American unmanned aerial vehicles over the area since the beginning of March. The other is the picture of Autobase:

If it did bring down an American UAV, there’s probably a pretty fair market for the product.

6 comments… add one
  • ...

    But what if the new Ukrainian government had asked for the US to check out what was going on in Crimea? Then the question of sovereignty to act gets more interesting.

    I’m having trouble imagining, though, that we would be flying a drone over airspace controlled (ostensibly at any rate) by the Russian government. That seems monumentally stupid to me, even for the lot in charge now.

  • But what if the new Ukrainian government had asked for the US to check out what was going on in Crimea?

    None of the possibilities that would imply are particularly likely. Either

    a) our military and/or intelligence services were acting on their own or
    b) the White House had ordered the move without consulting the Senate or
    c) George Murphy wasn’t the only actor to be elected to the Senate

  • ...

    Okay, why the Hell would the Administration consult the Senate?

  • Because all administrations should at least keep the Senate informed when deploying U. S. assets. Ultimately, it’s a Constitutional requirement.

  • Cstanley

    Isn’t it more likely that this is part of the Russian propaganda effort?

  • Andy

    This report is almost certainly false. The reported details don’t really make sense for any number of reasons. The biggest problem is that the Hunter has a relatively short range and it’s very slow. Using it over Crimea would mean the aircraft and ground control station would be based in Ukraine. It doesn’t make any sense the US would deploy forces to Ukraine to use the Hunter – the platform wouldn’t give the US any information it couldn’t get through other means.

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