The Nigerian government has approved a part-payment of $47 million towards the Nigerian Air Force’s (NAF’s) procurement of three JF-17 Thunder fighter jets from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC).
According to the 2018 Federal Appropriation Bill that was approved by President Buhari on 20 June, the JF-17 aircraft will be acquired together with relevant spares, support equipment and accessories. The budget lists a new amount of N17 billion ($47 million) as part payment for three JF-17s, support equipment and spares as well as N12 billion ($33 million) for the existing procurement of three JF-17s. In 2016 Nigeria budgeted $25 million for the JF-17 purchase.
Nigeria may buy more JF-17s at a later date, and may have only budgeted for an initial three, with more funding possibly allocated later.
The government has also set aside nearly N6 billion ($19 million) for the procurement of two new AW109 helicopters from Italian aircraft manufacturer Leonardo Helicopters.
The budget also includes provision for periodic depot maintenance of a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, as well as periodic depot maintenance of two Alpha Jets.
In addition, the government has set aside N3 billion ($8 million) for the procurement of various aircraft spares, and various arms and ammunition that include ammunition for fighter jets and attack helicopters.
The budget also provides for the construction and equipment of a standard aircraft maintenance hangar at the Bauchi Special Operations Command base as well as upgrades and rehabilitation of existing military infrastructure at various air bases around the country.
The Nigerian acquisition of the JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter jets is part of an ongoing fleet modernisation programme that includes the procurement of eight Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters and up to 12 A-29 Super Tucano close air support aircraft from the US.
The NAF is expecting three more pre-owned, serviceable A-29 Super Tucano aircraft from Brazil. The aircraft were manufactured by Brazilian aerospace company Embraer Defence and Security.
The new aircraft are expected to boost the operational capabilities of the air force in its fight against militancy and the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east.