Niger to upgrade its DA 42 surveillance aircraft


The two Diamond DA 42 MPP (Multi-Purpose Platform) Guardian surveillance aircraft operated by the Niger Air Force will be upgraded with new equipment for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role.

The US Navy’s Counter Networks and Illicit Trafficking Project Office put the US Naval Air Warfare Centre Contracts Department in charge of facilitating the upgrade, as the United States assists Niger in the fight against terrorism and smuggling. It recently donated two new Cessna Caravans to the country for border security and cargo transport.

Each DA 42 will receive different equipment, with one aircraft due to receive a Scotty Satcom or similar satellite data link, an airborne multiband tactical communications radio, GPS/Iridium navigation system and a SkyTrac DSAT 300E transceiver for global flight following/tracking.

The second aircraft is set to receive a moving map display, data downlink system, two sensor operator screens, a high frequency radio, Sentiel Kestrel moving target indicator or equivalent, SkyTrac DSAT 300E system, GPS/Iridium navigation system, encryptor device and Wescam MX-15 True HDi or equivalent sensor turret containing electro-optical/infrared cameras, laser illuminator and video tracker.

On August 15 this year the Naval Air Warfare Centre issued a pre-solicitation notice for the upgrades, with a closing date of September 20. However, this was extended to October 10 on September 18.

Niger has flown its two DA 42s for five years, with the order for the aircraft being announced in April 2008 and the aircraft handed over in October. They are flown by the National Air Squadron at Diori Hamani International Airport in the capital Niamey, according to Air Forces Daily.

The aircraft were originally delivered with Carl Zeiss Optronics Goshawk 350 video and thermal imaging sensors, as well as a Scotty satellite downlink system.

The Diamond DA 42 MPP Guardian can be customised to carry a wide variety of equipment, in belly, spine or nose sensor pods. Sensors can include a forward-looking infrared camera, laser scanner, large format digital aerial camera etc. Sensor turrets can weigh up to 85 kg, depending on placement, while useful load is around 500 kg.

A microwave up- and down-link system allows for data transfers at a range of more than 100 nautical miles while a beyond-line-of-sight satellite link and other radios, including military radios, are available on the DA 42 MPP.

The DA 42 is powered by two Austro Engine AE300 diesel engines, developing 168 hp each, giving a maximum cruise speed of 328 km/h. The engines can run on Jet A, Jet A1 or JP-8 fuel. At 35% power (loiter speed) the aircraft consumes 24.2 litres per hour, giving a typical airborne operations time of six to eight hours. Maximum range is 2 218 km (1 452 miles). For stealthy operation, the DA 42 can be equipped with optional noise and infrared reduction kits.

The DA 42 can be flown as an unmanned vehicle, and was first tested in this configuration in 2009 by Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd. The UAV variant has an endurance of 28 hours with a 400 kg payload.