‘Strip It Down To The Last Bolt’: Russia Wants To Decode Mysterious MQ-9 Reaper Drone That Crashed In The Black Sea

Russia is reportedly attempting to retrieve the MQ-9 Reaper drone that ‘collided’ with a Russian Su-27 aircraft and was forced to crash into the Black Sea.

An official of state corporation Rostec admitted that the debris MQ-9 Reaper drone is of interest to the Russian defense industry.

“Of course, the debris of the US MQ-9 Reaper drone is of interest to the Russian defense industry. Any discovery of that magnitude should be stripped down and studied to the last bolt,” Tass news reported.

The official added that to create a successful product, one needs to understand what your competition is up to. That goes for drones, artillery, armored vehicles, and other types of weapons.”

This has led to apprehensions that Moscow is trying to recover the downed UAV and could reverse-engineer the drone. However, a Ukrainian expert explains in his Facebook post why Russia won’t be able to replicate the American MQ-9 drone. 

Oleksandr Karpyuk pointed out that there have been ongoing discussions regarding the potential for Russian or Iranian defense corporations to attempt to make a copy of Western unmanned aerial vehicles. 

Karpyuk explained that if a country wishes to develop replicas of military weapons, it must also have access to technology and a highly sophisticated industrial complex. 

The key function of the MQ-9 is a satellite connection that enables Americans to operate drones over the Black Sea while seated in the United States, he added.  

Thus, Iran or Russia must first develop a constellation of satellites with a dependable communication link to build a drone similar to the Reaper.

Karpyuk highlighted that Iran has already succeeded in producing clones of foreign drones; as an example, the famous Shahed is strikingly identical to the “Harpy” manufactured in Israel more than 20 years ago.

The Israeli UAV, designed to locate electronic warfare and security equipment, can land and take off again. In contrast, the Iranian version is a kamikaze drone that can only fly once and at predefined locations. 

Karpyuk alleged that Shahed uses Controlled Reception Pattern Antennas (CRPA) to do this. In the 2000s, Israel reportedly provided Russia with this technology and other methods for producing Orlan-10 drones. 

Eventually, the Russians shared their data with Iran to protect the Shahed navigation system. 

Karpyuk concluded that if one looks at how and what characteristics Russia and Iran have been stealing from other drones over the years, it is evident that the main features they have been replicating are the internal configuration of the nodes and the design of the airframe. 

Also, he shared a picture of a Russian Lancet drone. The Ukranian expert alleges it is an Iranian drone modeled after the Israeli loitering munitions ‘Hero.’ 

File: Reaper Drone

Russia’s Attempts To Recover The Wreckage Of MQ-9 

Moscow is constantly trying to retrieve components of a spy drone that the US was forced to bring down last week in the Black Sea after colliding with a Russian jet. 

Radio hobbyists intercepted Russian military communications between troops on ships and in aircraft discussing the MQ-9 Reaper beginning around eight hours after the drone was destroyed after being hit by a Russian fighter jet, according to the New York Times. 

The audio recordings, which the hobbyists obtained while monitoring public frequencies, reveal that the Russian military is coordinating efforts to recover ocean debris, including pieces of engine casing, nose, wing, and gas tank.

The report notes that the recordings had audio distortion and military code terms that made them difficult to comprehend. However, no evidence exists that the Russians could recover any sensitive technology. 

MQ-9 drones, which are primarily employed for information gathering, often carry a variety of high-tech equipment, such as sensors, communications gear, and precision weapons. 

File Image: Su-27

Yet, according to remarks made by Defense Secretary Mark Milley last week, the US military took “mitigating measures” to ensure that foreign actors would not intercept crucial intelligence. 

“So we are quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value,” Milley noted. 

Furthermore, he stated that the drone plummeted into international waters in the Black Sea that were approximately 4,000 to 5,000 feet deep, making any recovery process impossible. 

The Pentagon later shared a video showing the drone operating in international airspace when it was intercepted by two Su-27 fighter jets. One of the jets collided with the US-made drone, causing damage to its propeller and forcing American officials to crash it. 

That being said, the first encounter between the US and Russia since the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict in February has strained the already tense relationship between Moscow and Washington.