16 mar 2023 9:18 p.m
The US is concerned about the loss of the MQ-9 drone that crashed in the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Moscow announced that it wanted to recover the drone. What technical possibilities does Russia have for this and what insights could be gained from the recovered drone?
By Nikolai Gulyayev
“We’ve done everything we can to minimize the value of the downed MQ-9 in terms of intelligence, but we’re not sure we’ll ever be able to recover this device,” said White House Security Council communications director John Kirby.
The US leadership thus indicated that it took the risk of the drone “falling into the wrong hands”, for example the hands of Russian military personnel, very seriously. Their concerns were immediately confirmed by Russia’s officials.
“Russia will try to recover the remains of the US drone that crashed in the Black Sea,” said Russian Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev. There are reasons to believe that actual salvage operations began as late as March 14, right after the MQ-9 incident. In a number of Telegram channels, recordings of the conversations of Russian sailors involved in the search for the drone appeared.
The MQ-9 crashed in the immediate vicinity of the Crimean coast, but the exact coordinates have not yet been released. Would it be reasonable to assume that the US could carry out a special operation to recover them? Most likely not, and that’s basically what the White House spokesman’s admission testifies to.
First, for an underwater operation of this kind, special ships with appropriate equipment are necessary. Of course, the US has them, but they are warships that are prohibited from crossing the Bosphorus during combat operations under the Montreux Treaty. This means that US ships cannot enter the Black Sea.
Secondly, there is a high probability that Russia can organize the salvage work earlier than the USA. The technical possibilities for this exist, said Patrushev.
The Lieutenant Commander a. D. Maxim Klimov told the newspaper Vsglyad:
“I suspect that the crashed US drone is at a depth of about a kilometer. Russia does indeed have undersea apparatus that could recover it – not all of it of course, but wreckage parts can be found with a high probability. For example, the company is ‘ Yushmorgeologija’, known for recovering the black box from the Tu-154 that crashed over the Black Sea, is capable of doing so.”
In Russia, there are several companies that have autonomous unmanned devices capable of working in the depths of the Black Sea, that is, up to three thousand meters deep.
State structures also have such devices, for example the Ministry of Disaster Prevention, the Navy and the Main Administration for Deep Sea Research (GUGI). The head of the Russian foreign intelligence service, Sergei Naryshkin, also spoke about the existence of the technical possibility of recovering the drone.
Specialists in deep sea research, by the newspaper Vsglyad were interviewed remarked that from a technical point of view the main difficulty was not in the recovery but in locating the drone or its wreckage. Even if its crash site is known exactly, the point on the seabed where the MQ-9 is now lying is a little off. Sea currents must be taken into account for salvage work and, above all, special equipment equipped with underwater detection systems must be used.
The only question that remains is: Why salvage the drone at all? Is it worth it as the salvage work can get quite expensive. What secrets could it contain, what could Russian intelligence and engineers find in it?
According to Pentagon claims, the MQ-9 was unarmed, meaning it was on a reconnaissance-only mission. But weapon systems are not as important in this case as communication and information transmission systems.
First and foremost, such a modern drone contains numerous electronic circuits and components, both built-in and replaceable. In particular, these are communication systems, optical and radio-electronic probes, transmission systems and other similar devices. Of course, after being in sea water, they will be inoperable, but even in such a state, they could be of interest to Russian intelligence.
A particularly large amount of information can be gained by examining the drone’s control system, its construction and even the materials used in the construction of the missile.
Here we return to the question of where exactly the wreckage of the crashed drone is located. It is principled, because if the parts are in Russian territorial waters, the problem is purely technical. Basically, the wreckage becomes the property of the Russian state.
But when the drone is in international waters, the situation changes. In that case, it remains the property of the United States, and an open attempt to recover it would cause an international scandal. Here could be on the secret Azorian project from the US to salvage a Soviet nuclear submarine in 1974. The operation was kept secret precisely because foreign (in this case Soviet) property was involved.
The statements by Russia’s officials that the recovery of the MQ-9 is possible and desirable indicate with a high degree of probability that the drone is currently in Russian waters, which are under the control of the Russian Navy. This means that the Russian armaments specialists actually have every chance of investigating the secrets of the US drone on a completely legal basis.
Translated from Russian and first published by Vsglyad.
more on the subject – Russia plans to recover wreckage from US drone in Black Sea
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