The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will take delivery of its JF-17 Thunder fighter jets in November this year, and A-29 Super Tucano turboprops in 2022, according to the Chief of Air Staff.
Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, speaking during the graduation of 2 079 new recruits on 15 February announced the new additions. He said over the last four and a half years, the Federal Government facilitated an unprecedented increase in the number of aircraft available for NAF operations, bringing the aircraft serviceability rate from 35% in July 2015 up to 82% as at February 2020.
This was brought about by intensive training and retraining of aircraft maintenance engineers and technicians who subsequently played a crucial role in the reactivation of platforms and maintenance of equipment.
“You would recall that 22 platforms were inducted into the NAF since 2015. These platforms have since been launched into operations”, he said. Abubakar added the NAF was in the process of acquiring the JF-17 Thunder fighter and the A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft. The JF-17 is due to arrive in Nigeria in November 2020, while the Super Tucanos are expected to be inducted into service by 2022.
Highlighting other steps taken by the current NAF leadership, Abubakar noted Special Operations Command was established to address the challenges of asymmetric warfare, such as the one posed by Boko Haram terrorists, while the NAF Regiment Specialty was considerably expanded with majority of personnel trained in Force Protection in Complex Air and Ground Environment (FPCAGE) for enhanced protection of NAF Bases and critical national assets. The Nigerian Air Force has taken into service armoured vehicles, such as the Paramount Marauder, for example.
Photos posted online in January seem to indicate Nigeria’s Thunders are almost ready for delivery. The country has three on order but more may be acquired from Pakistan to replace or supplement its F-7Ni fleet – a third of its 15 F-7Ni/FT-7Ni aircraft have been lost in crashes. Nigeria also bought Super Mushshak trainers from Pakistan.
The NAF earlier this month took three new aircraft into service: two armed AW109 helicopters from Italy’s Leonardo and one Mi-171 from Russia. Another Mi-171 is expected, along with two more AW109s (to date, four AW109s have been delivered as the NAF continues to expand its fleet).