Nigerian Air Force adds AW109, Mi-171 helicopters to its fleet


The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Thursday took into service three new helicopters: a Mi-171 from Russia and two AW109 helicopters from Italy’s Leonardo in a ceremony attended by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria has ordered a number of Mi-series helicopters over the last decade, receiving two second hand Mi-24P/Mi-35P aircraft from Belarus in 2010, three Mi-35Ms from Russia in 2014 and six Mi-171Sh armed transports from Russia in 2015. Another six Mi-35Ms were delivered in 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI’s) arms transfers database. Two Mi-24P/Mi-35Ps were also acquired from the Ukraine in 2014.

SIPRI records that Nigeria currently has 12 Mi-35Ms on order, with four already delivered (from April 2017), and placed an order for 12 Mi-171 helicopters in 2014. It appears the delivery on 6 February (NAF 581) was the first of this batch.

According to a Nigerian Air Force officer, the NAF is expecting a second Mi-171 to be delivered, as well as three JF-17 Thunder jet fighters and 12 EMB 314/A-29 Super Tucano light attack turboprops.

The two AW109s (NAF 579 and NAF 578) that were inducted on 6 February arrived partially disassembled in Nigeria on 15 January. They are part of a batch of six ordered from Leonardo, with the first two inducted on 29 April 2019 during the NAF Day celebrations in Abuja.

“I commend the support of the Governments of Italy and the Russian Federation, in particular efforts of the Italian and Russian Ambassador to Nigeria at sustaining the strategic partnership between our countries, which facilitated this acquisition,” Buhari said during the commissioning ceremony.

He said the military would continue to be funded to address security challenges, with many more aircraft to due be delivered. The new helicopters will be used to combat insurgents, bandits and other security threats across Nigeria. “I want to, once again, salute the resolve of our Armed Forces and the invaluable contributions of all security agencies for their efforts towards the decimation of Boko Haram.

“Your contributions in internal security, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in places like The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Cameroon have not only been a source of pride to us as a nation, but has also projected us as a reliable regional power.”

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said Buhari’s government has so far procured and inducted 22 aircraft and the service is expecting 17 additional platforms including 12 Super Tucanos from the United States.

“This fight against insurgency and terrorism couldn’t have been possible without the provision of modern war platforms and equipment sophisticated enough to guarantee the safety of the communities where these asymmetric wars are perpetrated,” he said.

“Since the acquisition of the recently inducted Mi-35M helicopters, the inherent flexibility and versatility displayed by these machines have ensured greater achievements in the fight against insurgency/terrorism and other vices in the country. It has also ensured speedy provision of support to other sister Services involved in the prosecution of the fight against insurgency, terrorism, cattle rustling, kidnapping and banditry.”