by Christina Sarich
Niger, Africa— DARPA, or the secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which works under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Defense, has created some spooky technology in its time — from tiny drones called ‘Gremlins,’ to ‘implantable, wireless neuroprosthetics’ that are lodged in a soldier’s brain to offer a reprieve from PTSD and other brain injuries resultant of the DoD’s war path. DARPA’s latest investment stands to take advantage of ample real estate in one of the world’s most impoverished nations.
DARPA has a publicly disclosed budget of at least $3 billion spent across 250 programs, as well as black budget programs with unknown financial figures. Now the government plans to spend $100 million building “one of the most important U.S. military construction efforts in Africa,” according to once-secret files obtained by the Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act.
The base will be constructed in the center of Niger, one of the only countries that is allowing MQ-9 Reapers — the newer, larger, and potentially more lethal model of drone than its Predator predecessor.
DARPA’s drone technologies have been expediently advancing, with some that can speed around a warehouse at 45 miles per hour, and others that have nanotechnology implanted within them to create weapons that target everything from submarines, to underground bases, and airborne missiles. Long-distance, and high-altitude drones have also been developed, including some that can stay in the air for weeks at a time.
The original request to build a base in Agadez, Niger, was green-lighted by President Obama for $38 million, under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015; but that has already jumped to $50 million, with operating expenses projected to cost American taxpayers $12.8 million per year once the base is built.
The emphasis on the Niger base is to run drone missions, though the Pentagon is hush-hush about its full intentions for the project. A 2015 planning document attests,
“The top MILCON [military construction] project for USAFRICOM is located in Agadez, Niger to construct a C-17 and MQ-9 capable airfield. RPA presence in NW Africa supports operations against seven [Department of State]-designated foreign terrorist organizations. Moving operations to Agadez aligns persistent ISR to current and emerging threats over Niger and Chad, supports French regionalization and extends range to cover Libya and Nigeria.”
The Agadez base would contribute to the U.S.’s presence the world over, with more than 662 overseas bases in 38 foreign countries, and military personnel in roughly 148 countries.
The U.S. established diplomatic relations with Niger in 1960, following its independence from the United Kingdom. It has since become a hub of U.S. military projects; however, Germany now plans to build their own base in Niger, in order to “fight Islamic militants” in neighboring Mali.
The German army will lead a multinational battalion of troops in the Baltics soon, as part of a NATO effort to put militarized pressure on the alliance’s eastern edge near the Russian border.
It is highly likely that DARPA’s “surveillance” drones are meant for the same region.
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