The Royal Air Force (RAF) has deployed three Tornado GR.4 combat aircraft to Chad to help search for missing Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in April.
The aircraft, from II Army Cooperation Squadron, departed Norfolk in late August, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The Tornados are operating from N’Djamena International Airport in Chad, where they are hosted by the French military detachment there, reports Air Forces Daily.
The Royal Air Force announced in late August it would deploy Tornados to fly reconnaissance missions over northeast Nigeria to track Boko Haram movement in an effort to find the girls. A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The UK continues to work with the US, France, Nigeria, its neighbours and international partners to provide advice and assistance to the Nigerian government. Together with our allies, we have provided continuous surveillance support to the Nigerian authorities, including satellite imagery and we are still in discussion with partners on the deployment of further surveillance capability.”
It is believed that the Tornados will use Rafael Litening III targeting pods or Goodrich Raptor photographic reconnaissance pods to gather intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data.
The RAF on May 18 sent a Sentinel R1 surveillance aircraft to Accra, Ghana, to assist with the search. The Sentinel R1 aircraft is a modified Bombardier Global Express business jet fitted with a synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indicator (GMTI). The RAF has five Sentinels in service.
Other nations have also contributed assets to help find the schoolgirls with the United States in May sending MC-12W Liberty and unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft to search for the girls. The unmanned aerial vehicle and Air Force personnel were deployed to neighbouring Chad.
More than 200 of the schoolgirls kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok on April 14 are still missing despite Nigerian and international efforts to find them. Around 50 of the girls escaped from their abductors.