A decade ago the concept of reconnaissance aircraft, ,armed drones, tactical drones, satellite reconnaissance and airborne warning and control aircrafts mainly existed in the imaginations of the Nigerian Air Force. Today, thanks to Boko Haram their place in active military operations has been cemented.
The 8 year long military operations against Boko Haram have seen the most extensive use of aerial reconnaissance and aircrafts and drones yet. Initial deployment of drones by the Nigerian military first started long ago by the army in the oil rich Niger Delta region, South South Nigeria. The Israeli made aerolight drone were set to reconnaissance work, tracking the movement of militants in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
However, large scale use of aerial reconnaissance assets by the Nigerian military began only in 2010, a year into the Boko Haram insurgency. In 2014 Nigeria’s reconnaissance capability got a boost with the secret acquisition of five CH-3 Rainbow armed drones from China.
The key task of attack drones in Nigeria is in the use of stand off precision guided weapons. Before now the Nigerian airforce strike capability was hopelessly outdated and ineffectivem with numerous friendly fire incidents. Successful missile guidance requires the clear fixing of targets via a camera or last guidance system.
This can be done directly from the aircraft carry the weapons, but Nigeria lacked the necessary class of strike aircrafts to carry out precision bombing, and efforts by the NAF to a quite modern 4th generation strike aircrafts was repeatedly blocked by the United States, citing human rights issues, this paving the way for the acquisition of combat drones.
The need for ‘eyes in the sky’ – or intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft – has never been greater. Here are the list of reconaisance/surveillance aircrafts supporting Nigeria’s campaign against Boko Haram.
GULMA Tactical UAV
Diamond Aircraft DA42 MPP Special Mission Aircraft improvements complete
The DA42 MPP (Multi Purpose Platform) GUARDIAN is a flexible surveillance aircraft based on the DA42 twin-engine aircraft manufactured by Diamond Aircraft Industries.Based on the mission requirements, the DA42 MPP aircraft can be reconfigured to carry different kinds of equipment. The aircraft is flexible for conversion into an unmanned air vehicle (UAV).
DA42 MPP mission capabilities
The aircraft can be deployed in border surveillance, reconnaissance and geo-surveys, and can also detect drug trafficking, immigration and pollution across the border. Other mission capabilities of the aircraft include ELINT (electronic signals intelligence) and COMINT (communication intelligence).
DA42 MPP GUARDIAN cockpit and avionics technology
Two crew members at a time can fit inside the glass cockpit of the DA42 MPP. It is equipped with Garmin G1000 integrated flight instrument system including a primary flight display and a multi-function display. The cockpit features a monitor fixture to install additional monitors and laptops optionally.
The avionics suite integrates Honeywell KN63 remote disturbance monitoring equipment (DME), WX500 Stormscope lightning detection sensor, and the GFC 700 autopilot, which also reduces the pilot’s workload during long endurance flights.
Sensors aboard DA42 MPP GUARDIAN
The DA42 MPP GUARDIAN is fitted with a mission-specific turret and airborne computer, and carries a variety of sensors which can be loaded and unloaded with ease.
The universal nose of the DA42 MPP GUARDIAN can be installed with electro optic / infrared (EO/IR) cameras, high-definition (HD) cameras, laser scanner, and air monitoring sensors.
The DA42 MPP achieves a peak range of distance at 1,452km and a maximum altitude of 5,486m. It has a maximum endurance of 12 hours.”
Data transmission systems such as EnerLinksIII, dVMO, Helicoder III, SOLO H.264, FM Datalink, and SCOTTY SATCOM are also accepted on this aircraft.
The underfloor pod can be installed with Telephonics RDR-1700B maritime search radar, Selex PicoSAR Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Seaspray 5000E multi-mode surveillance radar, Thales I-Master radar system, and airborne COMINT system. The belly and nose pods can house mapping and geographic information systems (GIS).
Beechcraft King Air 350i
CH-3 Rainbow attack drone
Alenia ATR-42 Maritime Patrol Plane.