MD Helicopters is moving ahead with the production of 12 MD 530F Cayuse Warriors for the Nigerian Army, with deliveries from the end of this year.
The Arizona-based company last week said the Nigerian contract was closed during a signing ceremony in Nigeria attended by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja. He said, during the opening ceremony of the maiden Nigerian Army Aviation Seminar in Abuja, that the MD 530F Cayuse Warrior Plus helicopters would operationalise the Nigerian Army aviation unit, which was set up to improve ground troops’ agility, responsiveness, and efficacy during operations. The COAS added that it would also contribute to the overall operational success of joint and coalition troops.
“MD Helicopters is grateful for the trust of the Nigerian government, and we’re excited to showcase this purpose built, best value solution to Nigeria and the world,” said MD Helicopters President and CEO Brad Pedersen, who attended the ceremony alongside Nigerian military leadership.
The Nigerian Air Force operates a range of combat helicopters, including the AW109, Mil Mi-24/35, and Gazelle. The MD 530Fs represent a major enhancement to the Nigerian Army’s aviation unit. Lagbaja said that to counter contemporary security threats and provide vital support to ground forces, the Nigerian Army resuscitated its aviation aspiration in 2014.
Nigeria’s order for the helicopters was announced by MD Helicopters in March this year. By June, three were on the MD Helicopters production line. The Nigerian selection includes a complete ILS (Integration Logistic Support) package, spares, pilot and maintainer training, and Flight Training Device (FTD). Flight International reported that another 24 will be acquired at a later stage, likely in further batches of 12.
The Cayuse Warrior Plus (previously referred to as the MD 530F+) is a derivative of the original Cayuse Warrior but featuring improved performance, armour, avionics, and weapons. The aircraft features Wescam’s MX-10D sensor turret, and can carry unguided and guided rockets, and gun pods.
Maximum gross weight is 1 700 kg, useful load 780 kg, service ceiling 16 000 ft, range 574 km, and maximum cruising speed 110 knots.
The MD 530F Cayuse Warrior has been sold to Afghanistan, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia. Lebanon has also acquired the MD 530F+, while Malaysia has acquired the MD 530G. Kenya received six MD 530s in December 2019.
It appears Nigeria is still attempting to acquire Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters. In April 2022, the US approved the possible sale of 12 AH-1Zs under a potential $997 million deal that includes weapons and equipment. Nigeria has for some time shown interest in acquiring AH-1Z helicopters, but the deal was put on hold over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the Nigerian government. However, on 28 September, Northrop Grumman Systems was awarded a $72 million contract for the production and delivery of Radar Warning Receiver/Electronic Warfare Management Systems (RWR/EWMS) and battery handle assemblies in support of the MV-22B, AH-1Z, UH-1Y, and CH-53K aircraft. Part of this contract is destined for Nigeria in support of the AH-1Z Viper. No further details have been revealed when Bell Helicopters will start the production of the Nigerian Vipers.
The Nigerian government’s 2023 budget proposal also makes provision for payment towards the acquisition of T-129 attack helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). Nigeria will receive a total of six T-129s, with deliveries in the near future.