Murphy's Law: The Mishandled Nigerian UAVs

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May 28, 2014: In the midst of all the publicity in Nigeria over the inability of the military to find over 200 teenage girls recently kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamic terrorists it was revealed that the Nigerian military had purchased nine Israeli Aerostar UAVs in 2007. Nigeria paid several million dollars more per Aerostar than the usual $15 million price. While Nigeria may have also purchased training, maintenance equipment, some spare parts and technical support that still left millions more being paid than would normally be the case. That money probably went for cash to be siphoned off by government and military officials. This is typical in many countries, especially in Africa. The reason for the Aerostar purchase was the military effort to suppress the criminal gangs in the Niger Delta that were interfering with oil production. That problem was largely settled with a 2009 amnesty deal and nothing was heard about the Aerostars in action. Even after Boko Haram became active in the north in 2010, no mention of Aerostars. The Israeli firm that sold Nigeria the Aerostars did report an inquiry from the military for spare parts a few years ago, but no actual order was forthcoming. It is believed that by 2010 the Aerostars were all inoperable because of lack of maintenance and spare parts.

The Aerostar TUAV (Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is a 210 kg (460 pound) aircraft that has a 50 kg (110 pound) payload, and endurance of up to twelve hours. It can operate up to 200 kilometers from the operator, and at altitudes of up to 5,800 meters (18,000 feet). Introduced in 2001, Aerostar has been constantly updated and eventually was bought by over 15 countries. It can carry day or night vision vidcams and stream the video back to the ground station.

It appears that the military did not want to draw any attention to the Aerostars lest the shady circumstances of their purchase be revealed. So it wasn’t until someone else revealed the Aerostar situation that knowledge of Nigeria’s UAV fleet became widely known. Now the Nigerian military and procurement officials (some now retired) are running for cover and trying to shift the blame. In the meantime American UAVs have been brought in to search for the missing girls, who have apparently now been located.

 

 


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