Egypt Leads the Pack : Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles.

In 2016 Nigeria’s quest to counter Boko Haram’s asymmetric warfare tactics with technology was taking off on steam. Nigeria was taking the world by surprise. It just sent into orbit NIGERIASAT -X, the first sattelite built wholly by Nigerian engineers.

In 2015 the BBC published an article on Nigeria’s nascent space program. Nigeria was now considered the  Africa’s premier Space powerhouse, Following this development South Africa announced its desire to return to Space with a satellite launch sometime in 2020. Egypt, Algeria and Morocco followed suit, kicking off an unofficial space race in Africa.

Already with more satellites in orbit than the rest of Africa combined, Nigeria put to rest the North African and South African challenge when it became the first country in Africa to manage a foreign satellite.

In December 2015 Nigeria made history when in a keenly contested exercise with NASA (American Space Agency ), ESA (European Space Agency ), and the Russian Space Agency, all countries with over 20 years of experience in satellite management, the Nigerian Space Agency  (NASDRA) came out the winner of a bidding process to provide In-Orbit test (IOT) and carrier Spectrum Monitoring (CSM) services for the Belarus Space Agency, a 15 year contract that netted Nigeria a cool $600 million.

With this feat, Nigeria becomes the first African nation in history to compete at the international stage as a major player in space technology.  The winning represents a milestone for Africa and a clear manifestation that Africa, and indeed Nigeria has developed the capacity to provide highly technical services in the satellite communication industry.

Besides opening more frontiers for Nigeria as a global player in the space, the financial return of Nigeria’s investment in Space based infrastructure is staggering.  The Nigerian Communication satellite (NigComSat) for example provides broadband services, enterprise solutions, secured communications and solutions among others for 35 African countries such as Gabon, Cote D’Ivore and Ghana. Raking millions of dollars in potential revenue.

On the military aspect a technological revolution of some sort was beginning to take place.

In 2016 Nigeria and Egypt joined a dubious international club when it bombed a Boko Haram logistics base. Though the airstrike itself was unremarkable, the Nigerian Air Force has conducted thousands of sorties against Boko Haram for years, what stunned the defence world was the first Nigeria has delivered via an unmanned drone.

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An armed drone of the Nigerian Airforce from the 72 Composite Air Group preps for takeoff on an armed reconnaissance mission around the Mandara Mountains in Cameroon. The mountains offer an ideal hiding area for Boko Haram.

While it’s well-understood that military powers like the U.S., U.K., and China possess armed drones, it’s less well-known that an African country could possess such platforms as well.

The enthusiasm for advanced technology seems to have waned in the Buhari administration Ninety percent of the high-tech assets in the Nigerian military today were acquired over the last decade. Nigeria has neither upgraded nor expanded its attack drone fleet despite its usefulness and security imperative.

While the NAF stagnates the rest of Africa is moving ahead. Somalia and Algeria now fields attack drones. South Africa is fuelling a prototype of its domestically built attack drones. However the most significant progress is being made by Egyptian.

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The Egyptian air force just signed an agreement to purchase drones, believed to be the Wing Loong attack drone from china. A model of the Wing Loong armed drone was displayed at the Egyptian Air Exhibition earlier this year.

The Wing Loong attack drone is said to compete with features of the American MQ-9 Predator medium altitude long-range attack drone.

Last month the Egyptian Defence Ministry showed a video of the Wing Loong attack drone taking off with missiles on its hard point and striking a ground target.

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The publicity video was telecast on Egyptian media on location of the celebration of Egypts 45th Air Force Day. Location of the video indicates that Egypt may already be in possession of the drones and may have signed up to buy more of them. Chinese firms generally do not allow sales of military hardware to foreign countries


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