Beech MC-12 In Search For Kidnapped Schoolgirls

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A Beechcraft MC-12 Liberty reconnaissance aircraft began flying missions earlier this week over northeastern Nigeria in the search for more than 250 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. It has been joined by unmanned surveillance aircraft, a Global Hawk, as well, reflecting a growing U.S. participation in the search efforts for the girls, though Pentagon officials say the U.S. is not planning a broader operation, according to ABC News.  The MC-12 is a military version of the Beechcraft King Air, carries a crew of four and is equipped with reconnaissance and surveillance equipment. Two analysts sit in the aircraft's fuselage monitoring real-time information being relayed from visual and communications sensors located underneath the fuselage.

The MC-12 is being flown by a military crew and had been flying missions over Mali from neighboring Niger, one official said. The U.S. also has unarmed Predator drones that fly out of Niger's capital, Niamey, conducting reconnaissance missions over Mali to assist French forces that have been fighting Islamic extremists in the northern part of that country. While speculation has centered on those drones being redirected to the search over Nigeria, it appears the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk will assume that mission. U.S. officials confirmed that a Global Hawk aircraft flew over northern Nigeria Tuesday and plans call for additional flights in the region. The jet-powered aircraft can remain over an area for as long as 24 hours and is equipped with long-range optical and surveillance equipment, officials said. The aircraft is likely flying its missions from U.S. bases in Europe. The U.S. Air Force has Global Hawks stationed at the Naval base in Sigonella, Italy.