Broken-Down Israeli Drones Could've Helped Nigeria Find Schoolgirls

Lack of Maintenance Grounded Surveillance Crafts

Bring ‘Em Back: Nigerian parents demand action to rescue the schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist rebels.
getty images
Bring ‘Em Back: Nigerian parents demand action to rescue the schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist rebels.

By Reuters

Published May 20, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Nigeria bought Israeli surveillance drones years ago that might have been used to hunt for more than 200 girls held by Islamist rebels, but poor maintenance has left them grounded, two official sources and the aircraft’s manufacturer said.

“To the best of our knowledge, these systems aren’t operational,” Tsur Dvir, marketing officer for Aeronautics Defense Systems, a firm based south of Tel Aviv that supplied Nigeria with Aerostar unmanned aerial vehicles, said on Tuesday.

A Nigerian government source and a former military attache to Nigeria both confirmed the information, although they said details were sketchy owing to the secretive nature of Israeli-Nigerian military cooperation.

The Nigerian military did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the disclosure could further embarrass President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, which has been criticized for its slow response to the hostage crisis.

Israel last week sent intelligence and hostage-negotiation officers to Nigeria to work alongside U.S., British and French experts helping the Nigerian authorities in the search, an Israeli official said on Tuesday.

“These are not operational troops, they’re there to advise,” the Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity

The April 14 abduction of the girls by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, and the inability of the military to locate them after more than five weeks, have stirred a global outcry.

Failure to maintain equipment is seen as one reason why Nigeria’s military has been unable to quell the militants. Nigeria argues counter-insurgency is something it never had to deal with until the Boko Haram uprising five years ago, and so is having to slowly learn.

Dvir, speaking on the sidelines of a conference organized by Israel Defense magazine, told Reuters that since the drones were purchased several years ago, Nigerian clients had not commissioned Aeronautics to carry out any routine maintenance.

“We did receive an inquiry from them about spare parts, but it never turned into a deal. I wish it had,” Dvir said, arguing that with their extensive flying range and thermal cameras capable of picking up body heat at night, the Aerostars could have helped scour northern Nigeria for the missing girls.

“They (drones) are probably parked in a yard somewhere.”

OBSOLETE EQUIPMENT

Dvir did not say how many Aerostars were bought by Nigeria.

Nigeria’s defense spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The former attache said the deal was struck in 2006, with a view to deploying the drones in the oil-producing Niger Delta, where militants were attacking crude pipelines and kidnapping oil workers before an amnesty three years later. They never flew.

Last December, Nigeria also unveiled a locally made drone at an air force base in Kaduna, although it has not flown since.

A government adviser said the Israeli drones were among many procurements that quickly went obsolete owing to lack of maintenance.

Neither source, nor the company, knew how many had been bought, but an aerospace industry source said they each would have been worth between $15 million and $17 million.

The U.S. military is already flying manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft over Nigeria to look for the girls, whose seizure piled pressure on President Jonathan to deal with the rebels.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in its campaign to establish an Islamic state in mostly Muslim northeast Nigeria.

Israel has defense ties with a number of African countries. Last September, it sent advisers to Kenya to help in a siege at a shopping mall in Nairobi, where Islamist militants killed at least 67 people in a gun and grenade attack.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.