- Nigerien Air Base 201, a US-constructed base in Niger, will finally begin counterterrorism operations using intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones.
- The massive project costed $110 million, and experienced delays due to inclement weather conditions.
- Here’s are some key details about Nigerien Air Base 201.
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A $110 million Nigerien air base constructed by the US will finally begin counterterrorism operations using intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones after delays due to inclement weather conditions, the military announced on Friday.
“We are working with our African and international partners to counter security threats in West Africa,” US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the combatant command overseeing US operations in the continent, said in a statement. “The construction of this base demonstrates our investment in our African partners and mutual security interests in the region.”
The base is called Nigerien Air Base 201, and is located in the desert region of Agadez, a strategic transit area for migrants. Both US and Nigerien aircraft will use the runways to launch armed and unarmed air assets against extremists operating in West and North Africa, the military said.
While the US-constructed base will be under Nigerien control, American forces will have exclusive use of around 20% of the roughly 9-mile base, military officials previously said to Stars and Stripes.
The base was expected to be operational in 2018, but the rainy season and other “environmental complexities” caused a delay, a US official said to The Air Force Times.
Here’s are some key details about Nigerien Air Base 201:
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Around 600 US Air Force Airmen are estimated to deploy for six-month tours.
The construction process of the base proved to be a challenge for around 350 service members involved in the project. Dry conditions caused concrete to dry and crack freshly-poured concrete.
“We’re building a base from nothing, from scratch,” US Air Force Lt. Col. Brad Harbaugh said in 2018. “This was all historically nomadic land.”
Source: Stars and Stripes
The construction project has also benefited Nigerien locals.
Around $10 million was spent on the asphalt for the base, in addition to $7 million for rubble. Nigerien locals were also employed for day-to-day jobs on the base, such as dining facility operations.
Source: Stars and Stripes
Numerous terrorist group operate within the region.
In a new report released by the State Department on Friday, US officials say terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS continue to operate in the region. US analysts say that terrorist elements have proliferated due to Niger’s limited military and budget.
Four US troops and four Nigerien soldiers were killed in a 2017 terrorist ambush.
On October 4, 2017, 11 US troops and 30 Nigerien forces were ambushed by ISIS-related militants near the Niger-Mali border.
Four US troops were killed, in addition to four Nigerien partner forces, in a battle against overwhelming terrorist forces. The US military awarded six medals to the Nigerien soldiers who fought in the battle, including two Bronze Stars.
A US-led investigation found that US’s ISR assets did not have enough fuel to provide cover for American forces, in addition to inadequate rest for the troops. Roughly an hour and a half after the battle began, two French fighter jets responded by driving the enemy forces away.
Source: The Army Times
Since 2013, the number of US troops in Niger has risen.
In 2013, President Barack Obama announced that 100 US service members would deploy to Niger for “intelligence collection.”
Roughly 800 US troops were operating in Niger by 2018. The terrain and its borders with Chad and Mali make the country an optimal transit route for terrorist militants seeking to travel to Europe, according to the State Department.
In 2018, AFRICOM publicly announced it had started deploying armed drones in a separate Nigerien base, dubbed Air Base 101, near the capital of Niamey.