55 new aircraft to bolster Nigeria’s air power – Military Africa
The Nigerian Air Force is expected to receive 55 new aircraft from different types of manufacturers around the world, as part of efforts to strengthen Nigeria’s security posture.
Deliveries of these aircraft will begin in December 2022 and continue into next year, representing one of Nigeria’s biggest acquisitions in several decades. The new aircraft will be added to those already delivered since 2015.
Nigeria currently faces several security challenges including; an insurgency in the northeast that has entered its 12th year, along with bandits, separatists and kidnappings.
Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao revealed on Thursday that the Nigerian Air Force will take delivery of additional helicopter gunships in December 2022, while others new acquisitions would be delivered in 2023.
The plane includes; six T-129 ATAK helicopters, 12 Bell AH-1Z attack helicopters, two squadrons (24 units) of Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master light combat aircraft, four Diamond DA-62 ISR aircraft, two medium tactical transport aircraft Airbus C-295, two Agusta AW109 Trekker helicopters, two Beechcraft King Air 360I ISR aircraft replacing two more King Air 350s that crashed in 2020, and three more Wing Loong II unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
“A few of these additional platforms are expected to be delivered to the Nigerian Air Force in December 2022, while others are to be delivered from 2023.”
Talks between Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials and Italian officials have reached an advanced stage for the acquisition and delivery of 24 Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master light combat aircraft, valued at 1, 2 billion euros.
The fighter jets would replace the Nigerian Air Force’s aging Alpha jets, and Leonardo would provide aircraft, training, support and ammunition to Nigeria under a single supplier. As a partnership, the Italian Air Force would train Nigerian Air Force pilots at the Galatina International Flight School (Lecce) and Decimomannu Air Base (Sardinia) in Italy.
The company will also see Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems supply avionics, PESA radar and ammunition.
The Nigerian Air Force Spokesman, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet said the Air Branch had maintained a 75% operational status of the NAF air fleet and had significantly improved the joint operations of the armed forces led by the Chief of the Defense Staff. , General Lucky Irabor as well as emergency call response time for air support and air interdiction in the fight against insurgency and armed banditry.
“There is a great improvement in joint operations, which is essential to our operations. The reaction time in the event of an ambush has greatly improved.
“When there is an ambush out of nowhere, jet fighters will appear. It shows in the number of insurgents who have surrendered,” he said.
For combat support, the Air Force selected Beechcraft King air 360i and Da-62 for its ISR requirements. The value of the deal for the two beechcraft is N10,860,000,000 ($24,794,520.30), which includes spare parts and ground support equipment, but its lead time has not not disclosed. Nevertheless, the Beechcraft King air 360I, the Diamond Da-62 ISR and other ISR platforms will support the missions of national forces in the West African region.
The two Beechcraft King Air 360Is were acquired by attrition for two Beechcraft King Air B350s which crashed last year. An aircraft (NAF 201) crashed on Sunday February 21, 2021 while returning to Abuja Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport from Minna Airport after reporting engine failure. A second crashed on Friday May 22, 2021 during an official visit to the northern Kaduna State of the country, killing Nigerian Army Chief Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru.
The United States government had in April this year approved the sale of Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and related equipment worth nearly $1 billion to Nigeria. Related equipment included guidance, night vision and targeting systems as well as engines and training support, the department had said in a notice to Congress.
Nigeria requested twelve AH-1Z attack helicopters, 28 T-700 GE 401C engines (24 installed, 4 spare); 2,000 Advanced Precision Weapon System (APKWS) guidance sections.
Since July last year, the US Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have delayed Israel’s sale of the AH-1Z and its associated parts and other defense systems to Nigeria.
In line with its procurement policies, Nigeria seeks to diversify its arms suppliers to avoid over-reliance on one manufacturer or country. The AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter will join others of Russian and Italian origin, namely the Mil Mi-24/35 “Hind“, and the Agusta A109 powers light attack helicopters.
Nigeria intended to acquire attack helicopters from different sources, with Airbus, TAI and HAL vying for the attack helicopter contract.
Designed by Bell Helicopter, the AH-1Z Viper can be deployed to provide close air support, armed escort/reconnaissance, anti-aircraft warfare and anti-armour operations.
The Viper can carry both TOW and Hellfire anti-armour missiles and is qualified to carry the Maverick missile. The helicopter can fire the Hydra family of 70mm unguided rockets or the larger 127mm Zuni rocket bombs. Since 2008, all units have been equipped with the Advanced Precision Destruction Weapon System (APKWS), a guided version of the Hydra. It also carries a 20 mm Gatling gun with three barrels for close-range engagement (up to 2 km) and 750 rounds.
For the six Turkish-made T-129 ATAK helicopters, the export success represents the culmination of nearly half a decade of cooperation between Nigeria and Turkey.
Defense industry cooperation between Nigeria and Turkey began in October 2021, during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Nigeria.
A first bilateral relationship between the two countries took place on Monday, August 30, 2021, when Turkey’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Hidaye Bayraktar paid a courtesy visit to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya at Army Headquarters, Abuja.
The 5-ton T-129 is a twin-engine multirole attack helicopter originally produced under license from the Italian-British company AgustaWestland and based on the A129 Mangusta. AgustaWestland is now Leonardo Helicopters.
In the field of tactical transport and logistics, Nigeria had previously expressed interest in acquiring C295W light transports from Airbus, with a delegation visiting Nigeria in October 2016.
Therefore, in March, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao announced on March 23, when he hosted the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, Juan Ignacio Sell at the NAF Headquarters in Abuja that the NAF sought to partner with the Spanish government in the areas of aircraft acquisition, training, flight operations, intelligence sharing and development image analysis capabilities, and is in talks with Airbus.