An MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone, operated by U.S. Africa Command made an emergency landing near Agadez, Niger, on Saturday, a U.S. Africa Command spokesman told Military Times.

“The aircraft experienced a mechanical malfunction while conducting a routine mission in support of operations in the region,” Air Force Col. Christopher Karns told Military Times.

An investigation into the cause of the malfunction will take place, he said.

“The aircraft is under observation by U.S. forces with host nation cooperation and assistance,” Karns said. “Assessment and the process of recovery of the aircraft and safeguarding the site is underway. Due to force protection and operational considerations this is about all I can say. Early indications reflect a mechanical issue but an investigation is underway.”

Karns told Military Times the drone is an MQ-1C Gray Eagle, a multipurpose drone that “provides reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, command and control, communications relay, signals intelligence, electronic warfare, attack, battle damage assessment, and manned-unmanned teaming capabilities,” according to the Defense Department.

AFRICOM’s Twitter account confirmed the loss of the aircraft after being asked about social media postings of what appear to be an armed Gray Eagle drone, with a Hellfire missile still under its wing.

“We continue to work with African partners providing a range of assistance in the region to include a valuable threat detection capability via aerial overwatch,” said Karns.

Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.

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