British military aircraft with cutting edge surveillance capabilities has been deployed to help search for missing schoolgirls in Nigeria.
The aircraft, capable of flying for significant periods of time at high altitude, is equipped with radar which can locate moving targets and provide high resolution imagery of objects on the ground.
The Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft operated by Lincolnshire-based 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron is the first UK plane to join the hunt for more than 200 schoolgirls that were kidnapped from a boarding school in north-east Nigeria in mid-April.
"I am pleased that Britain's armed forces have been able to support the international search operation and provide the specialist skills which could help the Nigerians locate their missing children," said Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.
The aircraft has left RAF Waddington on Sunday bound for Accra, the capital of Ghana, west of Nigeria where Islamist terror group Boko Haram and their captives are in hiding.
"The Sentinel with its wide area search capability and long endurance is perfect for this task,” said Rich Barrow, RAF Waddington's station commander.
"UK personnel will help to analyse the information gathered to improve the intelligence picture for the Nigerian authorities."
UK experts are already working with a US team in the country trying to establish where the girls are being held.
The squadron had been put on stand-by ever since last week when Prime Minister David Cameron promised Britain would "do what we can" to find the school girls.