The wreckage of an armed drone turned up in northeast Nigeria on Tuesday near the epicenter of the West African country’s violent Islamist insurgency.
The drone looks Chinese. And that’s a very big deal.
Pictures of the wreckage posted on Twitter show an unmanned combat aerial vehicle that closely resembles the CH-3 drone made by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. Missiles fixed to two hardpoints and a sensor payload are all apparent in the images.
Reports place the crash near the village of Dumge in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state.
China’s CH-3 drone, which made its debut at the 2008 Zhuhai Air Show, can reportedly carry two laser-guided AR-1 air-to-ground missiles, similar to the U.S. Hellfire missile.
In the wake of Boko Haram’s highly-publicized kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in the spring of 2014, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan asked parliament for an extra billion dollars — on top of the $6 billion in the country’s defense budget — to pay for new military hardware.
Nigeria’s military hoped that a sale of Cobra helicopter gunships from Israel would provide the new air power. But The New York Times reported that U.S. pressure on Israel to nix the deal ended the proposed sale last summer.
According to the Times, the U.S. doubted the Nigerian military’s ability to maintain the helicopters—or take proper care to avoid civilian casualties with their use.