First Nigerian M-346s to be delivered by year-end

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The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will take delivery of its first M-346 combat aircraft by the end of this year from Italy’s Leonardo.

This is according to Leonardo’s Vice President of Sales Africa, Claudio Sabatino, who last week told Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Mashal Hasan Abubakar, of Leonardo’s commitment to delivering the first batch of six M-346s before the end of 2024.

Sabatino was visiting Nigerian Air Force Headquarters on 17 April when he gave the NAF an update on the aircraft deliveries.

The Nigerian Air Force is acquiring 24 M-346 fighter aircraft “in a move that marks a significant step in NAF’s ongoing efforts to modernise its fleet as well as bolster its operation effectiveness,” it said. The aircraft are expected to be delivered in four tranches of six each. The deal was first announced two years ago.

According to a statement by the NAF, Sabatino said further engagement would be necessary to conclude other aspects of the project such as the commencement of pilot and technician training.

Sabatino assured Abubakar that maintenance of the M-346 fleet would not be a challenge as there is a binding agreement for Leonardo’s maintenance support for 25 years.

Abubakar said the M-346s will be used for training as well as close air support, air interdiction, and tactical reconnaissance.

The M-346s are part of a multitude of new aircraft being acquired for the NAF, including six T-129 attack helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries, two Beechcraft King Air 360 transports, four Diamond DA-62 surveillance aircraft, 12 Agusta A109 Trekker helicopters, and three Wing Loong II unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). The Nigerian Army is acquiring a dozen Cayuse Warrior Plus helicopters from MD Helicopters.

Last year the NAF said it had been effectively using new assets in combat and these were instrumental in defeating terrorists and insurgents. Battlefield successes against Boko Haram and other terrorist groups were attributed to the newly acquired JF-17 Thunder aircraft, A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, and UCAVs.