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An essay on this grim reaper thing, expanded

Stills from a video-camera on board the drone as shown on Alex Christoforou's vlog appear to corroborate the claim that the propellor was damaged by this Sukhoi 27 fighter jet. I do not want to appear cocky about this, or deny the possibility of a collision, but as you can see for yourself HERE, the V-shaped fins on top of the fuselage offer protection, and it seems unlikely that the prop could be hit without hitting at least one of the fins as well. On the underside the prop is protected as well by the vertical fin. 


On closer inspection of the moving images provided by the US European Command, published on YouTube, I noticed that one of the 'constant speed' propellor blades has been clipped, one appears to have been 'feathered' (offering zero thrust though turning), and one is still in forward thrust (or even fine pitch) mode. This is a separate, stand alone video at the end, when power to the camera has apparently been restored. What this video suggests, is not necessarily damage from impact on the clipped prop, since the damage could very well have been caused by structural loads the prop was not designed for. Like dealing with the 'jet wash' of two very powerful jet engines in full after-burner at very close range. 


The combination of 'jet-wash' causing the engine of the drone to stall, while over-stressing the propellors, and causing the pitch control mechanism to go haywire, could easily result in something the video in the end of the YouTube release depicts. The apparent speed of the propellor in the video where we see this fighter jet approaching the drone is not it's real speed, obviously, and for just one blade to get damaged, while the others are not, and without touching the fins, we need a bit of a miracle, or so it appears to be. 


I'm aware that this does sound like a non issue in the end, but looking at the video, and understanding that we had two fly-by's at very close range, I feel strongly that the pilot was looking for the effect I described, wrecking the power-train using 'jet-wash'. Downing the drone, without putting it out of its missery with an air-to-air missile. 


Various sources add that the Sukhoi fighter jet dumped fuel on the drone. I'm not familiar with the Sukhoi 27 and can't tell you for sure whether or not it has the capability. The F-111 'Aardvark', actually a bomber and not a fighter, was equipped with such a system, and it was frequently used on airshows, lighting up the dumped fuel with its afterburners. Fighter aircraft based on carriers like the F-14 'Tomcat', or F-4 'Phantom' had the ability to reduce the weight of the aircraft before landing in view of the deck-load limits, and short deck on which the aircraft had to be brought to a full stop, using arresting gear. But otherwise it does sound like a waste when using the afterburner will be more than adequate. It is my assumption that this is what those sources meant, since the videos do show impressive exhaust plumes emerging from the jet shortly before the close encounter. Unburned fuel from the afterburner may have hit the 'Reaper' drone, but focussing on the fuel as a tactic doesn't really sound like a plan, as far as I can see. 'Scorching' the tail-end of the drone, topside, where the engine intake is located, and over stressing the propellor mechanism, does sound like 'smart thinking', however. But I'm clearly in no position to conclusively say that it is impossible that the fighter struck this single propellor blade.


If I'm correct, I do understand why the US wants to paint a different picture, because every third rate country has fighter aircraft with afterburners. Better to call it a midair, and invoke some mysterious fuel spraying operation, or the US will have to send fighter jets with every drone they launch from now on. I felt like expanding on my own assessment not just for clarity, and less so because I desperately want my theses to 'win', but to alert people who are following these developments to this novel technique of denying drones access to a country's airspace, without the need to hit them with a missile in an 'act of war'.

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