The Air Force’s New Base In Niger Is Getting A Major Addition Before It Even Opens

Satellite imagery shows the U.S. military is building a new approximately 20,800-square foot hangar along with its own 100,000-square foot apron and associated taxiway at its new air base outside of the city of Agadez in central Niger. The American facilities in Agadez, which will form an important regional hub for U.S. military operations in Northwest Africa, have been actively under construction since 2016. The new runway, while complete, isn’t slated to open for actual operations until some time this fall.

Images from Google Earth show that U.S. personnel began work on the hangar, apron, and taxiway, in January 2019. These items are distinctly separate from the construction of three other hangars nearby, which began in 2017 and was largely complete by March 2019. Those structures have their own apron and taxiway, as well.
GOOGLE EARTH
A general overview of the main facilities at the new US air base in Agadez as of July 2019. The three existing hangars and the new construction next to them are visible just below the runway.

GOOGLE EARTH

A general overview of the main facilities at the new US air base in Agadez as of July 2019. The three existing hangars and the new construction next to them are visible just below the runway.

GOOGLE EARTH

A close up of the hangar area in December 2018.

GOOGLE EARTH

Work being done to level the area next to the hangars as of April 2019.

GOOGLE EARTH

The state of construction on the new addition as of July 2019.

The reason for constructing the fourth large hangar, or who might be destined to occupy it, isn’t immediately clear. When the American facilities in Agadez, which will be officially situated within the Nigerien Air Force’s new Air Base 201, finally open for business, the only flying unit we know of that will call the base home will be a squadron of MQ-9 Reaper drones.

Since 2013, the 323rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron has flown Reapers in the region from an American base the Nigerien capital Niamey. Those facilities are attached to the Nigerien Air Force’s Air Base 101 and Diori Hamani International Airport. When the U.S. base in Agadez begins operations, all of the Reapers in Niamey will head there to continue operations.

USAF

One of the 323rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron’s MQ-9s in a tent-style hangar in Niamey in 2017.

However, the 323rd was not among the units assigned to the 409th Air Expeditionary Group, which controls all regular Air Force activities across Northwest Africa, according to an official statement a spokesperson for U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) provided to The War Zone in an Email in May 2019. Instead, the only flying unit the 409th officially controlled at the time was the 324th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, which has been supporting U.S. operations in Africa from Naval Air Station Sigonella on the Italian island of Sicily since March 2011.

GOOGLE MAPS

Be sure to check out The War Zone’s custom, interactive Google Map showing known U.S. military operating locations in Africa here.

As of May, the 409th, which had moved to Agadez in June 2018, also oversaw the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron that handles day-to-day activities in Agadez and the 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron, which performs the same administrative mission in Niamey. The rest of the Group’s assigned units consisted of the 409th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, the 31st Expeditionary Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers (RED HORSE), and elements of the 4th Expeditionary Space Control Flight. The latter unit helps monitor satellite communications and data sharing capabilities, which are particularly important for drone missions, which typically involve pilots and sensor operators actually flying missions from bases in the United States.

The reason for constructing the fourth large hangar, or who might be destined to occupy it, isn’t immediately clear. When the American facilities in Agadez, which will be officially situated within the Nigerien Air Force’s new Air Base 201, finally open for business, the only flying unit we know of that will call the base home will be a squadron of MQ-9 Reaper drones.

Since 2013, the 323rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron has flown Reapers in the region from an American base the Nigerien capital Niamey. Those facilities are attached to the Nigerien Air Force’s Air Base 101 and Diori Hamani International Airport. When the U.S. base in Agadez begins operations, all of the Reapers in Niamey will head there to continue operations.

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