Erwan de Cherisey, Bogota

The United States formally handed over an unmanned aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) system to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on 26 February. The event took place at the Baledogle (Bahle Dogli) airfield in Lower Shabelle region.

A US Department of State official told Jane’s on 5 March that the system comprises three Israeli-made Aeronautics Aerostar tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and is contractor-owned and operated under a one-year contract that began in September 2017.

Speaking during the formal handover ceremony, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia, said the UAVs will provide AMISOM with real-time intelligence of militant groups that target AMISOM as well as Somali security forces, addressing one of the mission’s major capability shortfalls.

US Africa Command officials told Jane’s on March 5 that the surveillance system was donated in response to a request from Madeira and aims at increasing security along the main supply routes used by AMISOM for its logistics operations, as well as to strengthen its force protection during convoy movements and offensive operations.

“In preparation for the arrival of this unarmed, unmanned aerial surveillance system, AMISOM has received training implemented through AFRICOM from US and UK military subject-matter experts on the techniques and tactics to properly request ISR from this aerial platform,” one official said. “Based on this training, AMISOM has created an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance cell to manage the tasking and analysis of the raw data provided by the US contractor-owned and operated system.”

According to its manufacturer, the Aeronautics Aerostar has an endurance of up to 12 hours, a range of 250 km, a maximum speed of 110 kt, and can carry a payload of up to 50 kg.