The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) says it has successfully refurbished 13 aircraft, some of which have been successfully re-deployed to perform combat support roles for the army’s war against Boko Haram in the north-east of the country.
Addressing delegates who attended a recent security seminar focused on the theme ‘Developing Effective Air Power Responses to National Security Challenges in Nigeria’, NAF Chief of Air Staff Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar said the NAF would soon enhance its operational capabilities with the delivery of 10 more aircraft.
The new fleet would comprise of four new Mi-35N attack helicopters ordered from Russia, at least three ex-Brazilian Air Force Super Tucanos suited for light attack and surveillance operations as well as three JF-17 Thunder fighter jets from Pakistan.
Although he declined to comment directly on whether the planned Super Tucano acquisition would not be blocked by the US, which in November apparently refused to let Brazil sell the aircraft to Nigeria citing the military’s bad human rights record, the military chief said he did not foresee any problems since there are existing counter-terrorism collaborations between the two countries. In May this year the US was seeking to approve the sale of up to 12 Super Tucanos to Nigeria to battle Boko Haram. One of the Super Tucano’s production lines is in Florida, the other in Brazil.
“All I can tell you is that the US is supporting us in the North East. They are helping us with a lot of intelligence, so I do not see any reason why we should have difficulties,” Abubakar said.
The NAF chief said 10 Super Mushshak trainers that were recently ordered from the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) would be delivered in the medium term. The new acquisitions would complete an ongoing aircraft refurbishment programme which has to date successfully refurbished eight helicopters.
These include three Russian-made Mi-24V and Mi-35P attack helicopters, two EC-135s, two AugustaWestland A109s and one Super Puma. In addition the programme has also seen the successful refurbishment of one Beechcraft light aircraft, one Falcon jet, one Diamond DA-42 and two Dornier DO-228 aircraft used for surveillance.
Abubakar said the air force was also making progress in the training and advancement of pilots and crews with 70 pilots currently on training placements locally and abroad.
Meanwhile the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has closed public bids for the disposal by sale of two ‘unserviceable’ Dornier (DO-228) surveillance aircraft and one AS-355-F2 helicopter.
Bids for the aircraft were accepted at the Abuja headquarters of the NCS between 11 October and 21 November 2016. The two Dornier aircraft were acquired from Indian aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) India in 2005 for use by the NCS in border surveillance and anti-smuggling operations.
However, a parliamentary report issued early this year said the surveillance aircraft, which could have been used effectively in the counter-insurgency war against Boko Haram, were unserviceable. They were also found to have been stripped of most of the surveillance equipment as well as engine and flight safety components.