A US Army MQ-1C unmanned aerial vehicle was forced to make an emergency landing in the vicinity of Agadez, Niger, due to a mechanical malfunction on January 23.
US Africa Command confirmed the accident in a brief social media statement adding that the UAV was on a “routine mission in support of operations in the region.”
The command noted that the aircraft was under observation, while an investigation into the cause of the malfunction was underway.
While unconfirmed, the MQ-1C could have belonged to the Night Stalkers, a US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) unit tasked with providing support for US special operators.
While AFRICOM said the UAV was on a routine mission, photos circulating on social media showed the MQ-1C with a single Hellfire missile strapped under its wings.
The January 23 emergency is at least the third such incident in the vicinity of Agadez, a joint Niger and US air base referred to as Nigerien Air Base 201. The US lost two UAVs in two months in Niger in 2020.
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle provides wide-area reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, communications relay, and attack missions. Powered by a heavy fuel engine for long-endurance missions, the UAV can carry up to four Hellfire missiles.