Russians Claim MiG-31 Foxhound ‘Shot Down’ US Global Hawk Drone After ATACMS Attack On Crimea

After Russia held the United States accountable for Ukraine’s ATACMS strike on Crimea that killed several civilians, claims emerged on social media suggesting that the Russian forces had shot down a US RQ-4B Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) over the Black Sea.

Popular Russian military bloggers, including the Fighterbomber, which allegedly has close ties to the Kremlin, made these claims. Several of these bloggers said on the Telegram messaging app that a Russian MiG-31 interceptor shot down a US RQ-4B UAV over the Black Sea. Some even noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had commended the pilot who carried out the mission.

Fighter-bomber channel said: “If [the Yankees] fly again, it means that they are quite prepared for the loss of a Global Hawk (or even more than one).”

However, none of the claims were backed by any concrete evidence. The Kremlin, on its part, did not acknowledge the rumors spreading on social media like wildfire. Additionally, neither the Ukrainian Armed Forces nor the US military has taken cognizance of these claims.

In contrast, the claims became a talking point for Ukrainian military bloggers and open-source intelligence accounts that have been diligently tracking the developments of the ongoing war. A popular account expressed skepticism, saying, “If an Interception or Attack on a Global Hawk has happened, we will likely be getting a Video at some point from the Russian Ministry of Defense.”

EurAsian Times could not independently verify the claims and counterclaims traded by either side. However, a Kyiv-based security analyst, Jimmy Rushton, wrote on X (previously Twitter) that no such incident happened over the Black Sea and that the claims made by some pro-Russian accounts were fake news. At the time of writing this report, the US Department of Defense (DoD) had yet to comment on these developments.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian military bloggers said the drone in question had returned to the base unharmed.

The claims came after the Kremlin held the United States responsible for a Ukrainian attack on Crimea using ATACMS missiles that were supplied by Washington. The attack resulted in at least four fatalities and 151 injuries, and Moscow officially issued a warning to the American ambassador that a retaliation would follow.

“All flight missions for the American ATACMS operational-tactical missiles are entered by American specialists based on U.S. satellite reconnaissance data,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. “Therefore, responsibility for the deliberate missile attack on civilians in Sevastopol lies primarily with Washington, which supplied these weapons to Ukraine, as well as the Kyiv regime, from whose territory this attack was launched.”

While the Russian MoD did not establish a link between the ATACMS attack and the RQ-4B UAV, reports in Russian media suggested that the US reconnaissance drone RQ-4B Global Hawk circled in the airspace over the Black Sea during the Ukrainian attack on Sevastopol, which killed civilians. These reports were based on flight tracking data published by Flightradar.

Some military watchers noted that the Global Hawk may have been aiding the Ukrainian troops in the launch of this attack, expressing fears of a big escalation between the Cold War rivals. Moreover, it brought back memories of the time when Russian fighter jets dumped fuel over an MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea, forcing the drone to lose control and compelling its operators to crash it into the sea.

RQ-4B Global Hawk Is In The Limelight Again

The Global Hawk is a technologically advanced aerial reconnaissance system that operates at high altitudes and for extended durations, controlled remotely without an onboard crew and devoid of weapons. The Global Hawk drone has a notable track record of numerous missions across various conflict zones.

The drone has a full array of integrated sensors and cameras that allow it to continuously take high-resolution pictures of large swathes of land, day or night, and in all weather. According to manufacturer Northrop Grumman, the Global Hawk can see targets more than 340 miles away from its 60,000-foot operating height.

The platform also serves as a valuable complement to manned and space reconnaissance systems by offering continuous and nearly real-time coverage through its use of imagery intelligence (IMINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT) sensors. The precise range of its cameras and sensors remains classified.

The MQ-4A variant of the Global Hawk drone hogged the limelight in June 2023 when it was shot down by Iranian forces while flying over the Strait of Hormuz. At that time, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) lamented that the UAV had breached Iranian airspace. They further stated that the incident sent a “clear message to America.”

The Global Hawk drone has been extensively used by the US forces to conduct sophisticated military operations. It has also been sold to customers like South Korea and Japan for enhanced surveillance and reconnaissance.

An RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft like the one shown is currently flying non-military mapping missions over South, Central America and the Caribbean at the request of partner nations in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bobbi Zapka)

The drone was used by the US, in Operation ‘Inherent Resolve’, against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). At that time, the combatant commanders took action and made critical judgments because the aircraft supplied real-time imagery and signals intelligence to distinguish between friendly and enemy forces, define long-term targets, and monitor the movement of hostile equipment.

More recently, the US Air Force announced the positioning of RQ-4 Global Hawks unmanned reconnaissance aircraft at an air base in Japan as a part of their rotational deployment strategy last year. The deployment aims to contribute to the sustained operations across the theater and uphold a “free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the USAF said.

Russia has often pointed out how NATO and US aircraft, such as the RC-135 Rivet, RQ-4B Global Hawk drone, and the E-8 Joint STARS reconnaissance, surveillance, and electronic intelligence aircraft, fly around Ukraine’s coast and the Black Sea to assist Kyiv in its military operations.

The Global Hawk was reportedly used in the October 2022 maritime drone strike on the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea’s Sevastopol.  Russian forces have flagged the drone’s role in several such operations undertaken by the Ukrainian forces since.

Moscow is using the ATACMS attack to bolster its larger political argument that it is fighting the West’s proxy war and raises a question on Washington’s intention.