A Russian Pilot Filmed An American Drone From His Cockpit

Don’t engage the Reaper
MQ-9 Reaper, Joint Base Balad, Iraq
Erik Gudmundson, USAF, via Wikimedia Commons

Syria’s skies are getting a little crowded. The nation is in the throes of a four-year-old civil war, as the brutal embattled dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad attempts to fight off a large array of rebel factions, including radical militants and even ISIS. The war isn’t going well for anybody, and its drawn in foreign nations. In Eastern Syria, an American-led coalition is launching strikes against ISIS. Last month, Russia sent forces to prop-up the Assad dictatorship, and they’ve been conducting airstrikes of their own. The skies are so crowded that this happens:

That’s an MQ-9 Reaper drone, of the kind commonly used by the United States in targeted killing campaigns. The video, uploaded to YouTube by the Russian Defense Ministry today, was filmed from the inside of a Russian jet cockpit, and you can see the pilot in the cockpit’s reflection. The video is captioned simply and in English: “The presence of aerial vehicles in the air space of Syria has increased.”

To prevent their air forces from fighting each other (and perhaps accidentally provoking World War III), the Pentagon and Russia are talking to each other about “deconfliction,” or the careful art of making sure each country’s airplanes don’t run into and attack each other. Just in case, it appears that the Department of Defense is advising American pilots to not react to aggressive Russian jets. In the case of the Reaper, this is easy. The pilot, remote in a control console, likely can’t even see the jet through the Reaper’s forward-facing camera, and the sensor operator is probably looking for a target on the ground. They might not even know how close the Russian plane was.

Watch the full clip below: