A US Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV made an emergency landing near Adagez, Niger, on Saturday due to a ‘technical glitch’. The drone had a live AGM-114 Hellfire missile on its left-wing hardpoint when it landed.
The news was confirmed by the US’ Africa Command, stating technical malfunctions led to the emergency landing. It also said an investigation would be launched to ascertain the cause of the malfunction and that the UAV was under observation.
According to AFRICOM, the drone was “conducting a routine mission in support of operations in the region”.
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is another RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) made by General Atomics. The Gray Eagle is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft intended as an upgrade for the MQ-1 Predator armed drone.
(1/2) A U.S. Africa Command remotely piloted aircraft conducted an emergency landing in the vicinity of Agadez, Niger, Jan. 23. The aircraft experienced a mechanical malfunction while conducting a routine mission in support of operations in the region.
— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) January 24, 2021
The UAV has been in service since 2009. The drone, which can carry a complement of AGM-114 Hellfires, AIM-92 Stingers (an air-launched derivative of FIM-92 Stinger system), and GBU-44/B precision bombs, has been extensively used in conflict zones across the world.
The drone saw its first deployment in Iraq with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division aviation brigade in 2010. In Niger, armed American drones have been operating since 2019 from Air Base 201, located 5 km southeast of Adagez under an intergovernmental agreement between the US and Niger. Previously, the drones had been operating out of Niamey, the capital city.
An MQ-1 had crashed near Adagez in March last year. The Nigerien Air Base 201 is particularly useful to carry out missions against extremist groups in West Africa as well as North Africa, including Boko Haram and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Drones launched from the new airbase in Niger operate up to Libya, TheAviationist reported.