Four Chinese-made Wing Loong II combat drones have reportedly arrived in Nigeria to take part in ongoing counter-insurgency and anti-banditry operations in the country’s restive northwest region.
This comes a month after Nigeria’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, reportedly revealed that the country had concluded the purchase of eight armed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from China.
The remaining four UAVs are expected to arrive before the end of the year.
Wing Loong II, designed and manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Design & Research Institute, was primarily developed for China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
However, it can also be armed with a variety of weapons including laser-guided bombs and missiles such as the AKD-10 air-to-surface anti-tank missile, BRMI-90 90mm guided rocket, FT-7/130 small 130kg bomb with planar wing, and FT-9/50 50kg bombs.
“Nigeria has joined China & UAE as the only countries operating the WingLoong II Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle,” said Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola in a tweet on Tuesday.
The Wing Loong II can remain airborne for 31 hours in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mode, and for 26 hours in offensive mode, the official added.
The Nigerian armed forces are currently conducting operation Hadarin Daji against armed bandits in Zamfara state.
A mineral-rich state, Zamfara has attracted illegal mining and groups of armed bandits who steal livestock and other essentials from villagers in the area.
Thousands of people have fled the region and hundreds have lost their lives.
The drones are based in Zamfara’s capital, Gusau, where a new runway and ancillary facilities are being constructed to support its operations.
The aircraft’s area of operation will cover several states including Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kastina, and some parts of Kaduna state.