Nigeria begins Aerosonde UAV operations

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The Nigerian Army has started using the Textron Systems Aerosonde unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) acquired from the United States under a 2020 contract.

On 11 October, Textron said the first operational flights of the Nigerian Army’s Aerosonde aircraft had taken place, adding that the Aerosonde “hosts intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and will be the first UAS capability of its kind in country.”

Nigeria took delivery of three Aerosonde 4.7 Fixed Wing UAVs to enhance the nation’s domestic security and for ISR missions under a contract revealed in May 2020, worth $25 million and including contractor support and training.

“We are excited to see the continued expansion of Aerosonde to our partner countries. This delivery adds to our increasing international presence and highlights the market growth for advanced unmanned capabilities,” said Wayne Prender, Senior Vice President of Air Systems at Textron. “We know the Aerosonde system will make a difference for Nigeria as it provides the most cost-effective real-time ISR capability in its class.”

According to Textron, the Aerosonde has been designed for expeditionary land- and sea-based operations and equipped for simultaneous day/night full-motion video, communications relay and signals intelligence payloads in a single flight. Payload options include video, communications relay, synthetic aperture radar, electronic warfare, signals intelligence, communications intelligence, 3D mapping and Automatic Identification System (AIS).

The aircraft has a wingspan of 3.7 metres, a range of 140 km, endurance of 14 hours, service ceiling of 4 600 metres and payload of 9.1 kg. It can be launched and recovered from small spaces, including vessels.

The Aerosonde Mk 4.7 was unveiled in March 2009 and has been deployed by the US military. It has been developed into the Aerosonde HQ, which has rotor blades for vertical takeoff and landing. Textron said the Aerosonde has to date completed more than 585 000 flight hours in the field.

Uganda is also due to receive Aerosonde UAVs – in May 2020, Textron was awarded a $20 780 000 firm-fixed-price contract for two Aerosonde Mk 4.7 systems, spares and training for Uganda. The estimated completion date of the project was 30 September 2022.