The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is looking to buy 12 Scorpion jets from Textron AirLand to equip a single squadron in order to fight the Boko Haram insurgency gripping the country.
Air Vice Marshal Rufus A Ojuawo, the director of operations for the Nigerian Air Force, said the NAF wants and needs the Scorpion and that a formal request to buy could be made soon. He was speaking at the IQPC Fighter Conference in London yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“We are really handicapped in attacking the enemy where we want,” Ojuawo said. “We need capabilities for a timely response.” The NAF uses seven Mi-24 attack helicopters for counter-insurgency operations as well as 11 F-7 fighter jets, 21 L-39ZA Albatros, 12 MB-339 and 12 Alpha Jet trainer/light attack aircraft. However, the majority of these aircraft are several decades old and have been worn down by attrition. The F-7s are unable to carry precision guided air to surface weapons while the country’s ATR 72 surveillance aircraft are able to detect insurgent activity but not deploy weapons.
Ojuawo told IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly that the Air Force has obsolete equipment with low serviceability rates and that it needs a rapid response capability with concentrated firepower. He added that the NAF would shortly argue the Scorpion’s case with the government in the hope of initially buying a squadron’s worth of aircraft and possibly more in the future.
The Scorpion first flew in December 2013 as a private venture aimed at providing an affordable, versatile tactical aircraft for diverse missions such as counter-insurgency, irregular warfare, border patrol, maritime surveillance, emergency relief, counter-narcotics and air defence operations.
Powered by twin turbofan engines generating 8 000 lbs of thrust, the Scorpion is billed as being one of the cheapest military jets, with a price tag of $20 million and operating costs of $3 000 an hour, compared to $25 000 an hour for an F-16. One of the ways Textron AirLand is keeping the cost down is from using many parts from existing Cessna platforms.
The Scorpion has a cruising speed of up to 830 km/h (517 mph), with a ferry range of 4 400 km/2 760 miles. The aircraft carries an internal payload of up to 1 360 kg/3 000 lb, as well as wing-mounted precision munitions. It also has two retractable sensor mounts.
Mostly made out of composites, the Scorpion has a 14.4 m wingspan. To perform its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)/ground attack missions, the unswept wings are equipped with six hard points in addition to an internal payload bay.
Textron AirLand has said that it could deliver aircraft 18 months after receiving an order. However, Ojuawo was concerned that the United States may decline a request for Scorpion jets due to the country’s human rights record and the fact that the US previously rejected its request for Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters.