The Nigerian Air Force appears to have taken delivery of its first JF-17 Thunder fighter jet from Pakistan.
Video emerged on social media showing a Pakistan Air Force Il-76 transport aircraft (R09-001) unloading a JF-17 fuselage, apparently on 21 March. Further video subsequently showed the fuselage being moved into a hangar, believed to be at Makurdi. Flight tracking data showed the Il-76 depart Pakistan for West Africa on 21 March.
The Nigerian Air Force has ordered three JF-17s from Pakistan and these have been manufactured, with registrations NAF-720, NAF-721 and NAF-722.
In 2018 Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) approved a $184.3 million sovereign guarantee for the production of three Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC)/Chengdu JF-17 fighters, according to the Pakistan Express Tribune.
The newspaper at the time reported that Ministry of Defence Production officials had said PAC Kamra had signed a contract for the sale off three JF-17s to Nigeria. It is not clear how many JF-17s Nigeria will ultimately order, as it has only made small payments over the last several years towards the fighters. More are likely to be ordered to replace or supplement its F-7Ni fleet – a third of its 15 F-7Ni/FT-7Ni aircraft have been lost in crashes.
The Nigerian acquisition of the JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter jets is part of an ongoing fleet modernisation programme that includes the procurement of eight Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters and 12 A-29 Super Tucano close air support aircraft from the US.
Since mid-2020, Nigerian Air Force pilots and crew for the JF-17 have been training in Pakistan.