The withdrawal of French troops from Niger also includes the withdrawal of pre-positioned aircraft. Unlike helicopters, the Air and Space Force’s Reaper drones must first enter a specific transport box before entering the hold of a transport plane.
The withdrawal of the French Armed Forces from Niger involves an enormous logistical flow: if it is “only” 1,500 soldiers who must return to France, it is also and above all installations and various vehicles, planes and helicopters which must be repatriated to France or in other theaters of operation. The planned Niamey air base also included several MQ-9 Reaper drones, used intensively throughout the Sahelo-Saharan strip to support French and allied units. But just like the helicopters, the Reapers will have to make the return trip by transport plane.
In the last seconds of the video available below, it is possible to see two elements confirming the evacuation of French MQ-9s. The first is the storyteller (desert camo) being moved. It is not a cargo container but rather an MQ-9 control station of the Air and Space Force. It is from this container, and thanks to a satellite link, that the drone is operated by its crew.
In the background, a long (gray) container is also visible. This is the centerpiece of Reaper’s transport because one of the drones is probably inside. Unlike helicopters or small planes, transporting Reapers from a transport plane does not take place directly in the aircraft’s hold. It is first necessary to remove several large parts, such as the wings, ailerons, propellers, electro-optical systems, etc. Then, these different parts (as well as the fuselage) are placed in a container specifically developed and designed to transport an entire Reaper to safety. It is this container which is visible in the video.
Developed and built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI)