Nigerian Air Force arms third Alpha Jet; acquiring Yabhon Flash-20 UAVs


The Nigerian Air Force has armed a third Alpha Jet acquired second hand from the United States, and is apparently getting ready to take delivery of Yabhon Flash-20 unmanned aerial vehicles and Mi-35 attack helicopters.

Nigeria is apparently acquiring an additional 15 Mi-35M attack helicopters from Russia and Adcom Systems Yabhon Flash-20 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from the United Arab Emirates. Some of the UAVs and three helicopters are supposed to arrive in November this year. Apparently 33 Nigerian Air Force personnel have been sent to Russia to train on the helicopters, according to Nigeria’s Punch, with acceptance flights carried out in July.

Earlier this year it emerged that the Nigerian Air Force will receive Mi-35 helicopters from Russia and JF-17 Thunder fighter jets and Super Mushshak trainers from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. Nigeria is seeking up to 10 Super Mushshak trainer aircraft from Pakistan to beef up its trainer fleet. Nigeria’s budget makes provision for the acquisition of three JF-17s, 10 Super Mushshak trainers and two Mi-35Ms this year.

Nigerian media report that the Yabhon Flash-20 UAVs will replace the CH-3 armed UAVs acquired from China. One crashed in January 2015 and the type has apparently been problematic in Nigerian service. They have been armed with AR-1 missiles, and used to strike Boko Haram positions.

The Yabhon Flash 20 is the smallest of Adcom Systems’ UAVs at about 1.5 tonnes maximum take-off weight. It can fly for 60-70 hours and carries a gimbaled camera platform.

Nigeria also has Aerostar UAVs and some indigenous designs in service such as the Gulma.

The arming of the third Alpha Jet was announced by the Nigerian Air Force last week, which said the work was done by the Nigerian Air Force Technical Response Team. The aircraft can now carry bombs and rockets.

Earlier this year the Nigerian Air Force revealed it had armed two of its recently acquired Alpha Jets. Nigerian Air Force (NAF) spokesman Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa in January said the Alpha Jets bought from the United States could not be deployed on operations because they could not deliver weapons, thus relegating them to training.

He said the NAF had earlier looked overseas for assistance to get the aircraft reconfigured for combat but foreign companies were asking for $20,000-30,000 to carry out initial assessments of the project, so the NAF decided to form its own team to carry out the work.
“The model worked on the ground, and has since been mounted on the Alpha Jets, and test flown successfully,” he said. “This feat is a major research and development breakthrough for the NAF and the nation as a huge foreign exchange saver, given the project only cost about N400,000 [$2,000].”

Photos show what appeared to be 68 mm SNEB rocket launcher pods and 250 kg unguided bombs attached to the aircraft.

In June the Nigerian Air Force has received another second hand Alpha Jet from the United States, joining several other aircraft received from Air USA Inc. Two Alpha Jets were delivered from the United States in March and May 2015, with four aircraft apparently being acquired by Nigeria. It is not clear if the latest delivery is part of the original batch of four, or a fifth example. (Serials of the three known to be delivered are NAF475, NAF477 and NAF478 while the latest delivery is NAF478.)

The Alpha Jets acquired from the United States were flown by Air USA Inc, which specialises in military air combat readiness training and flies Hawks, Alpha Jets, MiG-29s and L-59 Super Albatroses. They were originally flown by the Luftwaffe before operating in the States.

Air USA Alpha Jets were converted for night vision goggle (NVG) operations, according to the company, and flight certified for operational use of TER, IMER and SUU-20 bomb racks. However, armament capability was removed prior to their sale.

Nigerian Alpha Jets have been used in the ground attack role to strike Boko Haram targets. They have been working with recently acquired King Air 350i aircraft, which have been used to detect targets for the Alpha Jets. Some of the King Airs have been fitted with sensor turrets for this role.

The NAF has recently reactivated a number of its Alpha Jets. A total of 24 were acquired in the 1980s but several have been lost in crashes. Apparently 11 have been made flyable again.