The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Thursday received its first six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft out of 12 on order, after a week-long journey from the United States.
The aircraft arrived in the northern city of Kano where they were received by defence minister Major General Bashir Magashi (Rtd), Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao.
The six aircraft, accompanied by a Dornier 328 support aircraft, left the United States on 14 July and transited through Canada, Spain, Greenland, Iceland and Algeria before arriving Nigeria. They will be officially commissioned into service in August.
The remaining six Super Tucanos will be delivered before the end of October 2021. The four-year period between order and delivery has been partly due to the challenges of configuring the aircraft to meet NAF specifications.
Two different types of camouflage are being used on the Super Tucanos – light desert camouflage and darker forest/jungle. Two of the six (19-2039 and 19-2040) have been delivered in jungle camouflage and the other four (19-2033, 19-2034, 19-2036 and 19-2038) in desert camouflage.
The United States under then-President Donald Trump agreed to sell the aircraft to Nigeria in 2017, resurrecting a deal frozen by the Barack Obama administration after the Nigerian Air Force bombed a refugee camp. On 28 November 2018 the United States Department of Defence placed the $329 million contract with Sierra Nevada Corporation to manufacture the Nigerian Air Force’s 12 Super Tucanos. The contract is worth $329 076 750 for the aircraft, although the total not-to-exceed amount is approved at $344 727 439 and is to include Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) systems for six of the aircraft.
The first Nigerian Super Tucano flew in April 2020 and by the end of 2020, six Super Tucanos were being used for conversion training of NAF pilots at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, who were there along with 26 engineers, technicians and logisticians. Another set of 35 personnel were also scheduled to join them early this year. In addition, a team from the USA is currently in Kainji overseeing the construction of critical infrastructure provided in the contract ahead of the delivery of the aircraft.
It is expected that Nigerian Super Tucano will be armed with Paveway II guided bombs and laser-guided rockets.
The new aircraft will help Nigeria battle rising insecurity, including mass school abductions in the northwest, Islamist insurgencies in the northeast and kidnappings for ransom and armed robberies nationwide.