Nigeria’s Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.

Nigeria’s first ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance) Squadron was created as part of the force modernisation program. Falling under the Nigerian Air Force, its has responsibility for all the Nigerian military’s capabilities.

The ISR Squadron is a mosaic of electronic warfare and signals intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition patrols, and unmanned aerial vehicles all mashed into one single architecture. In absolute terms it is the most advanced ISR network in SSA (Sub Sahara Africa.). It’s intended to be able to deploy tailored ISR Groups to support operations in ways no other Air Force in SSA can.

COMPOSITION

ISTAR Command

ISTAR stands for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (or just ISR). In its macroscopic sense, ISTAR is a practice that links several battlefield functions together to assist a combat force in employing its sensors and managing the information they gather.

Information is collected on the battlefield through systematic observation by deployed soldiers and a variety of electronic sensors. Surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance are methods of obtaining this information. The information is then passed to intelligence personnel for analysis, and then to the commander and his staff for the formulation of battle plans.

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The information is then passed to intelligence personnel for analysis, and then to the commander and his staff for the formulation of battle plans.

Intelligence gathered by surveillance aircraft is relevant and contributes to an understanding of the ground, and of enemy dispositions and intents.

Information is POWER. What ISTAR does is integrate the intelligence process with surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance tasks in order to improve a commander’s situational awareness and consequently their decision making. The inclusion of the “I” is important as it recognizes the importance of taking the information from all the sensors and processing it into useful knowledge.

ATR-42 Maritime Patrol Plane & King Air 350i Beechcraft

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An ATR-42 Maritime Patrol Plane taxi down the runway for take off with a King Air 350i closely behind.
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NAF King Air 350i.
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An ATR-42 Maritime Patrol Plane and two King Air 350i during a flyby.
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NAF King Air 350i 

Airborne Command & Control

Surveillance and patrol aircraft’s are sometimes used as command posts. Making it easy for commanders attached to ground units to supervise and observe the accomplishment of the mission from the air.

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Former Chief of Army Staff Major General Kenneth Minimah onboard a King Air 350i surveillance aircraft.
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Former Director of Defence Information Chris Olukolade on-board a King Air 350i over the Sambisa forest.
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Former Director of Defence Information Chris Olukolade on-board a King Air 350i over the Sambisa forest.

In the Nigerian army’s offensive to capture Bama,Gwoza and Banki, the army’s strategy was to bombard the enemy with heavy artillery prior to the invasion. The NAF invited the GOC 7th Division and Artillery Commander to be on board the ATR-42 and for aerial assessment while troops were advancing to capture those territories.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Domestically made drones like the GULMA tactical drone and the TSAIGUMI UAV s used by the army and Air Force for all weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR).

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GULMA Tactical Drone built by engineers at the NAF Institute of Technology.
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GULMA Tactical Drone built by engineers at the NAF Institute of Technology.
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Mobile control module of the GULMA UAV. The van is built by Nigerian car manufacturer Innoson Motors. 

CH-3A Rainbow UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle)

The CH-3A UCAV is built in China.  It has a mass of 550 kg, a typical endurance of 14 hours, a payload capacity of 150 kg and is armed with AR-1 air to ground missiles.

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NAF CH-3A Rainbow armed drone. The NAT operates 4 of these attack drones.
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Mobile command module of the CH-3A Rainbow attack drone.

It can operate up to 150 km from the Ground Control Station (although multiple stations can be linked to extend the range) and is fitted with an electro-optical/infrared sensor in addition to a dual-mode synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication system that allows it to see through all-weather conditions.

Reconnaissance/BDA (Battle damage assessment)

They say necessity is the mother of invention, or in Nigeria’s case – Improvisation. The Nigerian Air Force converted a large chunk of its utility helicopter fleet into armed reconnaissance helicopters by fitting them with FLIR/Infrared systems and .50 calibre machine guns.

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NAF utility helicopter fitted with a .50 calibre machine gun

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NAF AW101 helicopter.

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NAF Agusta Westland helicopter..

These helicopters are used to obtain information by visual observation about the activities and resources of Boko Haram insurgents in the theatre of operation.

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Door gunner of an AW101 helicopter peers through a high-powered military grade binoculars.
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Door gunner of an AW101 helicopter peers through a high-powered military grade binoculars 
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2 Replies to “Nigeria’s Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.”

  1. What is the operational range of the Gulma UAV built by the Air Force engineers and is it still in its testing phase or fully operational? How many units have been produced and is there any plans for a production line?

    Liked by 1 person

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