As the brutal Boko Haram insurgency has entered its 7th year in Nigeria, the relationship between the government and China has deepened. In many ways it is a match of needs. The Nigerian military has a pressing need for counter-insurgency (COIN) equipment, such as drones, MRAP vehicles and smart bombs (many of which the US has been unwilling to provide the government due to human rights concerns). China is seeking to be a first tier exporter of such modern military systems as well as has a massive domestic demand for oil.
The result has been the export of Chinese weapons, fighters, warships and now it appears armed drones to Nigeria. On January 25, 2015, a photo appeared on online at Beegeagle’s Blog, appearing to show a CH-3 UCAV which crashed upside down near Dumge village in the Mafa District of Borno Province. The two anti-tank missiles on the CH-3’s wings appear to be intact. Borno is the area where much of the Boko Haram violence, including the massacre of 2,000 civilians, occurred in 2015. Currently, the Nigerian military is fighting to hold onto the city of Maiduguri against a Boko Haram onslaught, so it appears likely that the CH-3 in question was flying reconnaissance and fire support missions for the Nigerians when it crashed.
The CH-3 is a medium UAV built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. This 256km per hour, 630kg drone has a wingspan of about 8 meters, and the combat version can carry a 100kg payload. Judging by photos of the CH-3 during Chinese testing, the missiles would likely by 45kg AR-1 anti-tank missiles, which are roughly equivalent to the American Hellfire missile. The CH-3 is also in Pakistani service as the “Burraq” UCAV.
Despite damage to the tricycle landing gear and upper forward fuselage, this CH-3 appears to have crash landed due to mechanical or control difficulties. This is in line with most other global UAV combat losses to date. As the CH-3 has a cruise altitude of 5,000m and a flight ceiling of 6,000m, it is unlikely that Boko Haram would have the necessary heavy anti-aircraft weaponry or training to do so. Despite this particular CH-3’s inglorious fate, it is a good illustration that Chinese drones are likely to be flying over Nigeria and many other insurgencies around the world for time to come.
Thanks to Broccoli at Sinodefense Forum
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