The Pentagon is adding a second drone to a multinational mission to locate and retrieve more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped weeks ago by Islamist group Boko Haram.
Recent days saw Pentagon officials fly an unmanned Global Hawk surveillance drone, as well as a manned MC-12 turboprop aircraft, over Nigeria to collect intelligence for the mission. Defense officials said Friday that they will pull the manned aircraft out of the sky next week for maintenance and replace it with another unarmed drone — either an additional Global Hawk or, possibly, an MQ-1 Predator.
One Pentagon official, who spoke about the mission on condition of anonymity, said that State Department, White House and defense officials have been communicating in classified emails and working groups about how to best provide assistance to Nigeria.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier this week that additional U.S. military advisers and FBI agents with expertise in safe recovery and negotiations were sent to Nigeria to assist with the recovery operation.
Those advisers will likely have a say in what type of drone gets added to the air mission, the Pentagon official said Friday. “Now that we have personnel on the ground, they’re in the best position to advise up the chain of command what type of asset would be best to use,” the official said. “That’s why we send them there.”