U.S moves Djibouti Reaper drone fleet to remote location amid safety concerns

The Washington Post has revealed that the Governement of Djibouti has asked the U.S. to move its fleet of Reaper UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) away from Camp Lemonnier due to local population concerns regards their safety.

The Post revealed that there has been at least five crashes since January 2011 close to the base, which also serves as the country’s only International Airport.

The Djibouti government was concerned due to the amount of air traffic now flying from the airfield, not only the UAV movements numbering around 16 per day but also of the other military aircraft movements. The Post report also revealed that a Reaper crash had shut down the Seychelles only International airport that serves the popular holiday destination.

They also argued that a shared military/civilian facility would also increase the risk to civilians, should militants attack the airfield in retaliation to the drone strikes launched from the same location. The Reaper fleet has for the time being been moved to another airfield in the country which is in a more remote location therefore not posing such a risk to local civilians.

The U.S. Air force has found a short term alternative in Djibouti’s desert at Chabelley airfield a little used and (more importantly) remote airfield (to the SW of Djibouti) and has upgraded the facility so they can use it for Reaper operations. It remains to be seen if this is going to be used long term or that the U.S. is going to need to find a new location to continue its operations (and shadow war) from the Horn of Africa.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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