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CLARA MOSCHINI

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Niger Air Base 201: New US base for combat drone aircraft

Operating from next year

After a long negotiation, the construction of a mega-base for combat drones in Niger is started. Planned to increase surveillance activities on Islamic fighters linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda in Sub-Saharan African Sahel territory, the "Niger Air Base 201" will be set up a few miles from Agadez and it should start operating early next year.

Required by Nigerian government, the base will host about half of the 800 American soldiers currently present in Niger. The base's construction will allow MQ-9 drones and combat aircraft transferred from the capital Niamey to carry out reconnaissance and possibly strike in many Western and Northern African states and in the Lake Chad's area, which is besieged by the Sunni jihadist terrorist Nigerian Boko Haram organization.

The American military presence in Africa is remarkable and constantly growing. In the US Camp Lemonnier outpost in Djibouti, for example, there are over 4000 soldiers. The project of the new mega-base comes after the construction of two other similar structures. The first one is in Chad, where the US has long been engaged in counter-terrorist operations in collaboration with the French forces employed in Mali. The other one is at Niamey airport, where Mirage 2000 bombers, French Rafale multirole fighter planes and Reaper drones leave.

Considered by some aviation managers as one of the most powerful "troop labor construction" projects, the base will require an investment of 110 million dollars and 15 million a year management costs. At the moment the building process is still underway and only three hangars and the first layer of a runway has already been completed.

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