Reapers Begin East Africa Ops

The United States recently began operating unarmed MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft over Somalia from a forward airfield in neighboring Ethiopia, according to press reports. Last year, the Air Force began upgrading Arba Minch Airport in southwestern Ethiopia to support then-undisclosed operations in the region. With increasing US military involvement in East Africa, the Reaper surveillance flights currently provide “operation and technical support for our security-assistance programs,” said MSgt. James Fischer, 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) spokesman, reported the Washington Post last week. Seventeenth Air Force advises and supports regional partners like Ethiopia and Kenya that are fighting militant groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, al Shabab, and al Qaeda affiliates. Reaper sorties “will continue as long as the government of Ethiopia welcomes our cooperation on these varied security programs,” said Fischer. (See also AFP report.)