The United States has deployed several drones in Africa and the Middle East for both reconnaissance and at times to hit at her targets. Most of the missions have been successful although some have led to disaster and revenge.
The most recent deployment of USA drone deployment has been in response to an ongoing abduction crisis in Nigeria where over 200 school girls were abducted by Islamic militants Boko Haram two months ago. Nigerian and U.S. officials have fears that the girls might be sold to human traffickers or killed.
Designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. state department last year, the leader of Boko Haram has reportedly said that they would only release the girls if the Nigerian government releases some of their imprisoned colleagues. Nigerian government said it was discussing with the terrorists about the release of the girls.
The defense department in the U.S. officially confirmed that their military deployed drones to Nigeria to trace the girls and their captors. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters,’’I can confirm that we are using both manned and unmanned aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to assist in the search for the kidnapped girls.”
Warren did not specify the number of drones deploy but emphasized that they are there for only conducting surveillance missions.
The intelligence information obtained from the surveillance aircraft is fed to an inter-agency U.S. advisory team on the ground at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja. The U.S. team, which includes a contingent of military experts from U.S. Africa Command and the country team in Nigeria, analyzed the information and provided advice to the Nigerian forces who are looking for the girls, Warren said.
The Pentagon said it has no intention of deploying U.S. special operations forces to help rescue the girls. The American military personnel are simply there to advise and assist the Nigerians with communications, logistics, and intelligence, according to officials.
Drones are also referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVS). They are aircraft either controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or increasingly, autonomously following a pre-programmed mission.Drones basically fall into two categories: those that are used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes and those that are armed with missiles and bombs.
According to a retired Kenyan army colonel, Juma Ojambo, the drones are a recent invention but very useful in military world. “Of recent drones have become popular in USA military adventures. The use of drones has grown quickly because unlike manned aircraft they can stay aloft for many hours and they are also cheaper than military aircraft . Since they are flown remotely there is no danger that crew can be hit,” said Ojambo.
While armed drones were first used in the Balkans war, their use has dramatically escalated in Afghanistan, Iraq , the Middle East and now in Africa.
Some countries, including those in Africa have reportedly bought drones to enhance their military. It is alleged that even Nigeria had bought Israeli surveillance drones years ago that might have been used to hunt for more than 200 girls held by Islamist rebels, but poor maintenance has left them grounded.
“To the best of our knowledge, these systems aren’t operational,” said Tsur Dvir, marketing officer for Aeronautics Defense Systems, a firm based south of Tel Aviv that supplied Nigeria with Aerostar unmanned aerial vehicles.
The “Global Hawk” the U.S. military’s high-altitude, long-endurance aerial drone has reportedly flown several times over Nigeria in search of the over 200 girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram.
With a wingspan of just over 130 feet, the Global Hawk’s air time is a huge advantage in surveillance operations: It can remain airborne for 28 hours with a range of 8,700 miles and has a top speed of 310 knots (357 mph), according to the Air Force. The Global Hawk also has a variety of surveillance systems including radar, optical, and infrared sensors.
So far the findings of the drones in Nigeria have not been made public. However, the United Nations is considering the use of unarmed drones to monitor sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, said a UN official, ahead of the deployment of 12,000 peacekeepers in the embattled country in September.
According to the UN under secretary-general for peacekeeping operations Herve Ladsous, they are studying the possibility of deploying drones to help them carry out surveillance in the troubled country where hundreds of people have been killed in clashes between Christians and Islamist.
Ladsous told the press in Central African Republic capital Bangui during his recent visit. “We are considering to start using drones. I think this is a very useful instrument in this type of territory.’’
A local leader in Central African Republic, Amos Nchuyi said that drones would go a long way in improving on the situation in the country. He said, “If drones are deployed they will help the peacekeepers to locate where those who kill civilians are hiding.’’
Christian militias in that country have taken a merciless vengeance on the community after the Seleka, a mostly Muslim rebel group, temporarily seized power early last year and then killed many Christians. They were later overpowered and fled into countryside leaving Muslims at mercy of Christian militants. Since then, thousands of people have been killed and nearly a million displaced, amid warnings that the country is on the brink of genocide. But the drones are not only used for military issues.
But the drones are not only used for military issues. In Uganda they are to be used against poaching of elephants in Uganda.
Uganda government has resolved to start using drones in fighting against the poaching of elephants and other wild animals in it’s national game parks.
The small unmanned aircraft will be deployed in all national parks in the country to monitor elephants and rhinos ,which are the most targeted by poachers.Drones carry color and black and white tv cameras and image intensifiers amongst other accurate sensors.
This comes at a time when there are reports that there is increasing in the poaching of elephants not only in Uganda but also in all the other countries where they still exist especially in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.
According to Uganda wild life authority, before 2009, about three elephants were being killed every year but the number has risen to over ten elephants killed a year. Uganda wildlife authority Executive Director, Andrew Seguya, said that they are already in the process of acquiring the drones.
‘’We are in talks with various suppliers. We shall buy about two drones. They will monitor all parks during the day and at night. ‘’ said Seguya.
He said that although operating drones is very expensive, with a flight hour costing between $2500-$3500, the high costs can not deter the government’s resolve to conserve wildlife and guard the tourism sector.He added on that the wildlife authority spends about 70 per cent of its budget on conservation work where monitoring against poaching falls.
In middle east a drone 10 days ago struck in eastern Yemen killing at least five people in the first such raid since the army launched an offensive against al-Qaeda linked fighters last month.USA is allegedly the only country which operaes drones in Yemen.
The drone reportedly targeted a vehicle carrying al-Qaeda members near Al-Husun, a village in Marib province.Yemen’s army launched a major offensive on April 29 against strongholds of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and claims that it hit a death blow on the militants because they lost many fighters.
Yemen army offensive came after a wave of US drone strikes that killed several al-Qaeda fighters last month in southern and central regions.
But the drone attacks have been avenged by al-Qaeda. In the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda announced Sunday it has executed four people accused of placing tracking devices on vehicles to help U.S. drones target them.
The militants posted a video online showing four people whom they accused of spying for USA.The four confessed that they placed tracking devices on the vehicles of jihadists killed in drone attacks two years ago in the southern Shabwa province.
A rebel security official named Abu Islam al-Muhajer said in the video that U.S. and Yemeni authorities were behind the drone attacks.
Although human rights organizations and some individuals in Middle East have accused those who deploy drones for their gadtes killing innocent people, the drone program has been defended by both the White House and Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
Human rights groups accuse that many innocent people are killed when drones hit their assumed tasks. Around 60 suspected jihadists were killed in a wave of drone attacks in mid-April that struck militants’ training camps and bases in Yemen.