The Pentagon gained approval from the Nigerien government to fly armed drones out of Niamey, Niger’s capital, a State Department official said Friday, an effort that will put more firepower in the region, and also require more U.S. troops there.
Air Force personnel who specialize in transporting, inspecting, loading and maintaining weapons such as Hellfire missiles and GPS-guided bombs will be needed in Niger, along with refuelers, mechanics and other logistical personnel, according to Paul Scharre, the director of the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.
Additional pilots and aircraft may also be needed. There are 800 U.S. personnel in Niger, mostly based at Niamey’s airport. It remains unclear whether the armed drones in Niger will be used to better protect U.S. troops, expand strike capabilities against militants in the region, or both, Scharre said.
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