A RAF Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft has been sent to Nigeria as the international search for more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls intensifies.
The 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron aircraft, from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, with its crew of five and state-of-the-art intelligence gathering and surveillance equipment will join US aircraft trying to find the youngsters who were seized from a school dormitory in the northeast of the country.
Its mission will be to provide airborne ‘eyes and ears’ for a team of British experts, already in the Nigerian capital Abuja to help in the hunt, and will assist a team of multinational experts interpreting intelligence being gathered from a host of sources.
The Squadron was put on alert to deploy immediately after the Prime Minister’s announcement to Parliament that he had offered to help the Nigerians tackle the long term threat posed by the Boko Haram terrorist group as well as focus on the kidnap crisis.
Station Commander RAF Waddington Group Captain Rich Barrow said:
“We at RAF Waddington are very pleased to be able to provide assistance to the Nigerian government in their efforts to find the girls and get them back with their families where they belong.
““Within hours of the PM’s announcement we were on standby to deploy a Sentinel aircraft and crew..
The Sentinelwith its wide area search capability and long endurance is perfect for this task- we are grateful for the opportunity to contribute. UK personnel will help to analyse the information gathered to improve the intelligence picture for the Nigerian authorities”
The Sentinel R1 aircraft is capable of flying for significant periods of time at high altitude. It is fitted with a Dual Mode Radar which provides a moving target indicator and radar imagery; especially useful for monitoring activity on the ground.
As well as offering enduring support to coalition forces in Afghanistan, RAF Sentinels have also recently deployed to Mali (2013) where it assisted in providing intelligence for UN and French troops conducting counter insurgency operations and earlier this year, following requests from civilian agencies, it was tasked in the UK to provide wide area imagery support to the multi-agency flood relief efforts .
Officer Commanding 5(AC) Sqn Wing Commander Dave Kane said:
“The Sentinel is a highly adaptable and capable aircraft and has proved its worth in providing genuine operational effectiveness time and time again. Like other members of the public we have watched events in Nigeria unfold with a feeling of horror and we are determined to do whatever we can to help find these children and return them to their parents. “
The Sentinel capability will help complement other international intelligence and surveillance assets, such as those provided by the US and French.
Source / Author: RAF
Editor: Mr Simon Mander
Photo: SAC Matthew Gerrard – RAF Stock Image