‘We have brought up three parts of the frame’: Amateur radio hobbyists catch Russians talking about RECOVERING pieces of US Reaper drone they destroyed over the Black Sea
- Russia raced to recover wreckage hours after the drone crashed on March 14
- Radio intercepts reveal conversations about recovering pieces of the drone
- Pentagon says drone’s software was wiped of any sensitive information
Moscow has recovered components of the US surveillance drone that was destroyed by two Russian fighter jets last week, according to intercepted military radio traffic.
Just hours after the March 14 incident, radio traffic from the Russian scramble to salvage the MQ-9 Reaper drone was captured by amateur hobbyists on unencrypted channels, according to the New York Times.
Clips of the radio traffic reveal conversations between multiple Russian ships and aircraft about attempts to recover the drone’s engine casing, nose, wing and gas tank.
‘At this moment, we have brought up three parts of the frame,’ one unit code-named Apelsin (Orange) is heard broadcasting. ‘Now I am proceeding toward the helicopter to search for more.’
Pentagon officials have said any sensitive information was remotely wiped from the drone’s software after its propeller was stuck by an Su-27 fighter jet during a close pass, and that any wreckage recovered will have little military value.
Hours after Russian Su-27 fighter jets (above) destroyed a US drone, Russia began salvage operations and recovered some wreckage, radio intercepts suggest
Pictured: The Prof Vodyanitskiy research vessel in Russia which is said to be part of the search for the drone wreckage in the Black Sea
‘Whatever is left of that floating will probably be flight control surfaces, that kind of thing — probably nothing of real intrinsic value to them in terms of re-engineering or anything like that,’ National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby told CNN.
‘We’re not overly concerned about whatever they might get their hands on,’ he added.
The downing of the US surveillance drone was the first direct military incident between US and Russia since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine began a year ago.
The US Navy does not currently have warships operating in the Black Sea, and is not believed to be undertaking a salvage operation on the surface of the waterway.
The newly released radio communications indicate that Russian salvage ships from the Russian-controlled Crimean port of Sevastopol rushed to the area where the drone crashed into the water within eight hours of the incident.
Fragments of the transmissions spanned about four hours, and included repeated conversations about dwindling fuel reserves and concerns about making it back to port.
Mentions of Sevastopol and nearby Striletska Bay help to confirm that the salvage vessels were operating in the area where the drone went down.
The radio transmissions refer to unit code names including Orange, Hedgehog, Tenacious, and Neptune.
Russian media claimed that Kremlin forces had found the downed US drone near the port
Telegram channels indicate special purpose vessels Fizik (pictured in a file photo) and Professor Vodyanitskiy both sailed to or near the suspected location of the wreckage
Separately, information from social media indicates special purpose vessels Fizik and Professor Vodyanitskiy both sailed to or near the suspected location of the wreckage in the Black Sea.
As well, a source close to the Russian defense ministry claimed Kremlin forces had found the downed Reaper drone at a depth of up to 2,953ft in the Black Sea near Sevastopol.
Moscow has not officially acknowledged a salvage operation, but Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the military would decide whether attempt a recovery.
‘This is the prerogative of the military. If they deem it necessary to do that in the Black Sea for our interests and for our security, they will deal with that,’ Pescov said last week.
US officials have said Russia deliberately forced the drone down in international airspace, possibly in an attempt to seize its data, by dumping jet fuel on it and clipping one of its propellers as they buzzed by it.
Russia insists that the drone was operating inside a ‘temporary airspace regime’ established for its invasion of Ukraine, and claim that the drone crashed after the operator lost control due to ‘sharp maneuvering’.
An MQ-9 Reaper drone is seen in a file photo. The downing of the US surveillance drone was the first direct military incident between US and Russia since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine
US officials said the MQ-9 Reaper drone was intercepted by two Russian Su-27 jets that dumped fuel on top of the drone before clipping its propeller, forcing it to crash
That account was contradicted by footage from the drone, released by the Pentagon, showing the Russian jets harassing the US aircraft by flying extremely close and dumping jet fuel on it.
It also showed the loss of the video feed after another close Russian maneuver, which the Pentagon said resulted from a Russian jet colliding with the drone.
The video ends with images of the drone’s damaged propeller, which the Pentagon said was caused by the collision, making the aircraft inoperable and leading it to crash in the Black Sea.
On Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the pilots of the two Russian fighters would be awarded for forcing the drone down.
The United States has since resumed surveillance drone flights over the Black Sea region, officials said.
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