A US Africa Command spokesperson has shared that one of its MQ-1C drones has malfunctioned over Niger, Africa, while armed with a Hellfire missile. It’s not the first time the US drones have crashed in the region, with an MQ-9 Reaper crashing due to mechanical failure last year.
Images of the drone were shared on Twitter via France 24 journalist Wassim Nasr. It is reported that the armed drone was forced to make an emergency landing due to an unknown malfunction.
Air Force Col. Christopher Karns spoke to Military Times, saying:
The aircraft experienced a mechanical malfunction while conducting a routine mission in support of operations in the region. The aircraft is under observation by U.S. forces with host nation cooperation and assistance.
The drone is currently being assessed from the flight logs, while recovery of it is currently underway. It is expected that the missile will be removed from the drone as soon as possible to stop someone from stealing it and possibly selling it to a terrorist group.
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is used in surveillance and reconnaissance missions, target acquisition, command, control, communications relay, signals intelligence, electronic warfare, attack, battle damage assessment, and manned-unmanned teaming capabilities.
It’s great to see that the drone was able to perform an emergency landing successfully. If not, it would have led to much more damage and possible accidental deaths to people near the drone. It is still pretty scary to see a drone land in a public area with a missile still attached. We hope that the drone and the missile have been secured by now.
General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone uses a Thielert Centurion diesel engine that produces 165 HP, allowing it to stay in the air for up to 25 hours at a maximum speed of 192 mph. It can fly at a maximum altitude of 29,000 feet and has four hardpoints, which means it can carry up to four Hellfire missiles, eight Stinger missiles, or four Viper Strike bombs.
Photo: Wassim Nasr