The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has lost one of its remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) in the vicinity of Agadez, Niger on Feb. 29, according to a Command statement.
The initial and current assessment is that the RPA was lost due to mechanical failure, added the statement.
On Feb. 29, U.S. Africa Command lost one remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) in vicinity of Agadez, #Niger. Our initial and current assessment is that the RPA was lost due to mechanical failure.
— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) March 2, 2020
Even though AFRICOM didn’t identify the type of drone involved in the incident, the pictures of the alleged crash site making rounds on social media show the wreckage of an MQ-1C Gray Eagle medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operated by the U.S. Army.
— O U M A R A ⴰ ⵍ ⵇ ⴱ ⵙ 🇳🇪 (@oAlkabouss) March 2, 2020
A new joint Niger and U.S. Air Base, known as Nigerien Air Base 201, is located around 5 km southeast of Agadez. It was announced last year that the U.S. military has started drone intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations out of Nigerien Air Base 201.
“The ISR operations are to be conducted in support of partner forces and international efforts to counter violent extremist organizations in the region. This effort is in partnership with the Nigerien Government and reflects the commitment and desires of African partners as well as common interests for stability and security in the region”, said a statement from USAFRICOM release at the time.
The U.S. has an agreement with the Government of Niger for use of armed and unarmed air assets in its airspace that “improves the combined ability to respond to threats and other security issues in the region”.
The U.S. has recently conducted a turnover and dedication ceremony of a new C-130 hanger to the Nigerien Air Force at the Nigerien Air Base 201. The hangar will ultimately shelter up to two C-130 mobility aircraft, recently purchased by the Nigerien Air Force from the United States.
MQ-1C Gray Eagle
The General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle (previously the Warrior; also called Sky Warrior and ERMP or Extended-Range Multi-Purpose) is a MALE UAS developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for the U.S. Army. It is as an upgrade of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator.
The aircraft can operate for 36 hours at altitudes up to 25,000 feet, with an operating range of 200 nautical miles. It can carry a payload of 800 pounds (360 kg) and may be armed with weapons such as AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-44/B Viper Strike guided bombs.