Nigeria acquires Songar armed drones from Turkey as UAV fleet grows


The Nigerian Police Force has taken delivery of a small batch of Songar armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey’s Asisguard, while larger UAVs are entering Nigerian military service.

Asisguard said the Songar deliveries were concluded on 15 September, but did not reveal further details. In May it was reported by Africa Intelligence that Nigeria had ordered ten Songars.

It is believed the contract was signed in 2021, as Asisguard last year announced contracts had been signed with two African countries and negotiations were underway with a third.

Unveiled in 2019, the Songar multicopter can be fitted with a machinegun, 40 mm grenade launcher or 81 mm mortar. It can also be fitted with a day/night camera gimbal and laser range finder. An electronic sight and ballistic calculation module assists with weapon deployment and recoil management. If using a 5.56 mm assault rifle, the Songar can carry 200 rounds of ammunition and hit a 15 square centimetre target from 200 metres away with single shots, 15-round bursts or fully automatic fire. When carrying a grenade launcher, four rounds can be fired.

The 25 kg drones use a four-armed carbon body design with two coaxially mounted propellers on each arm. A weapon is fitted to a tilting mount, allowing a remote operator to aim it. Flight time is up to 25 minutes for the gun-equipped version and 15 minutes for the grenade launcher version.

The Nigerian police are expected to use the Songar against armed gangs and bandits, which have recently caused havoc in several states.

The Nigerian Police Force has also recently taken delivery of ALTI Transition UAVs from South Africa, and Elistair Orion fixed-wing aircraft from France.

More recent UAV deliveries to Nigeria include at least four AR-500B shipborne unmanned helicopters from China. It is not yet clear if these will be used aboard Nigerian Navy vessels or from land bases. Photos emerged in September of four AR-500Bs in Nigerian Navy markings.

The AR-500B, developed specifically for shipborne operations by state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), first flew in late 2020. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 500 kilograms, a mission payload of 70 kilograms, a maximum endurance of four hours, an operational radius of 100 kilometres and a ceiling of 4 000 meters. It can fly at a cruise speed of 120 km/h.

Nigeria’s military is also getting Bayraktar TB2 UAVs from Turkey – it has been reported that Nigeria ordered six UAVs and two ground stations. Photos posted online in September showed several of the UAVs on the Baykar factory floor in Nigerian markings.

Nigeria joins a rapidly growing list of Bayraktar TB2 operators in Africa. One of the most recent customers is Djibouti, which revealed its TB2s in June, while Niger received six in May after a November 2021 order for the type.

Turkey has sold its Bayraktar TB2 to Ethiopia, Ukraine, Morocco, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Poland.

The Bayraktar TB2 has a cruising speed of 130 km/h with an operational altitude of 7 300 metres and 27 hours endurance (communications range is around 300 km). The 12 metre wingspan aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of 700 kg and can carry a 150 kg payload. It is powered by a Rotax 912 engine and can be fitted with a swappable electro-optical/infrared/laser designator or multi-purpose AESA radar.

The Bayraktar TB2 is used operationally by the Turkish Armed Forces and is able to employ MAM and MAM-L guided munitions and UMTAS missiles (four munitions can be carried at a time).

It has been proven in combat by Turkey in Syria and Libya, where Turkey backed the Tripoli-based government against eastern forces supported by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, the UAVs helped Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan defeat Armenia-backed forces, and in Ukraine the Bayraktar TB2 has been used successfully against Russian invaders.