Bird Aearosystems from Herzliya, Israel, has recently revealed that its mission aircraft, equipped with cutting-edge intelligence and surveillance systems, are included in the Deep Blue project. The project, held by the Nigerian government, is part of the efforts to tackle the piracy phenomenon along the coast and protect seacraft and merchant ships in Nigeria’s territorial waters. As a result, Nigeria was recently removed from the International Bargaining Forum’s (IBF) list of states classified as high-risk maritime nations.
The Gulf of Guinea, which is surrounded by 20 countries, including Nigeria, is considered a global piracy hot spot, where almost half of the worldwide marine robbery attacks are committed. These attacks, carried out by armed groups, include merchant ship robberies, smuggling, oil theft, illegal fishing, and crew kidnapping. The multitude of attacks in the Gulf severely damages Africa’s economy, as it is a main trade route between the continent and the rest of the world. Experts estimate the financial damage resulting from piracy to be around $2 billion for the countries around the Gulf.
The Deep Blue initiative, designed to safeguard Nigeria’s territorial waters up to the Gulf of Guinea, was introduced by the Nigerian government in 2021 in an effort to address the issue. The Nigerian Navy, Air Force, Ground Military, Police, and Security Services were brought together under the umbrella of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to carry out the project’s objectives. This project is the first of its kind in Western Africa, and if it is successful, other countries suffering from piracy may embrace it.
The combined force consists of 16 armored vehicles for coastal patrol, 600 specially trained troops for interdiction, two designated ships, 17 speed boats, two intelligence and surveillance mission planes, three helicopters, and two drones. In addition, a Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) was established.
One of Bird Aerosystems’ operation lines is tailoring mission aircraft (ASIO) for border protection, patrol, and surveillance. The company provided two Cessna Citation CJ3 converted to maritime patrol aircraft for the Deep Blue project. Both airplanes are equipped with Bird’s mission-management and intelligence-gathering systems, which allow for combining data from aerial, marine, and ground sources and planning for missions based on multi-layer intelligence. Bird recently carried out a live demonstration of the system for the Nigerian government.