To boost the fight against the dreaded Boko Haram and ISWAP terror organization ravaging the region, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has established a new forward base at Diffa Airport, Nigér Republic. Following the development, the NAF has deployed it’s ATR-42 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft as well as multiple Alpha jets for ISR and air interdiction missions
The newly formed base is expected to reduce reaction time by the Air Force when confronting the deadly sect since Diffa is closer to the epicentre of conflict zone than the Air Task Force 105 Composite Group based in Maiduguri as well as the 75th Strike Group operating in Yola.
Niger republic which is a member of the Nigerian-led Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) already possesses two Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot close air support aircraft, one Mil Mi-24 Hind assault helicopter, as well as various ISR aircraft such as the US, donated Cessna 208 and Diamond DA42 surveillance aircraft.
In recent years, Nigér Republic has seen an increase in foreign presence on its soil, Niger is currently the U.S. and French strategic partner in the fight against Islamist terrorism in Africa. Various terror groups allied with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb that operates along the borders with Libya, Mali and Nigeria.
The Niger Government has previously given permission to the U.S. to operate armed MQ-9 Reaper drone currently deployed to Niger’s Air Base 101 in Niamey in a long-term strategic partnership between the U.S. and Niger to combat violent extremism in the region. There is also a drone base in Agadez that provides surveillance of Boko Haram. The U.S. has already provided Niger with Cessna C-208 surveillance planes, armoured personnel vehicles and small craft known as mud boats, along with other equipment and training.
Since August 2018, Niamey has become the Intelligence gathering pole of French and U.S. forces in the region, the U.S. MQ-9 Reapers drones have sufficient range to strike targets all over West Africa and North African countries, a reality which is unsettling to defence planners in the region. The United States has once been accused of preparing a staging area for a possible full-scale presence on the continent in the nearest future. A fact the U.S. war planners have confirmed.
The presence of the U.S. and French and now Nigerian military aircraft operating in close proximity raises concerns about a possible military confrontation in the already conflicted Nigerien airspace.