The US Navy intends to pay for an upgrade to Niger’s two Diamond Aircraft DA42 surveillance aircraft.
One aircraft will be outfitted with an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical/infrared sensor with a range-finding laser, plus data transmission and encryption capabilities and new operator display screens. The second aircraft will gain satellite communications equipment and radios.
The US military has been actively upgrading intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment for Sahel-region governments, ostensibly to allow for operations against Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), –an active regional franchise of the terrorist network.
AQIM was among forces that took over much of neighbouring Mali in 2012 – territory since retaken in an extensive operation by France.
At least two US-owned General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft are based in Niamey, Niger’s capital, to conduct ISR operations over Mali. As the border between Mali and Niger is essentially porous, operations are thought to be conducted over Niger in addition to other area nations.
The USN did not immediately respond to questions.