The Nigerian Air Force has revealed that it will be acquiring additional fighter aircraft and combat helicopters, with approval having already been received from the government.
Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Adesola Amosu made the revelation during a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday ahead of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Nigerian Air Force. However, he did not disclose the type of aircraft involved in the new acquisition plans, or numbers.
“Arrangement is in place to raise for us new platforms. Very soon we will be showcasing the new platforms that have been acquired for us,” Amosu said.
Amosu said the Federal Government has made plans for upgrading the Nigerian Air Force with new aircraft and through refurbishing existing platforms.
“Over the years, the Nigerian Air Force has grown from a small service with few platforms to one with over seventeen aircraft types and still growing. Indeed, recently, the Federal Government approved the acquisition of new fighter aircraft and helicopters for the Nigerian Air Force as well as the upgrade of some of our existing platforms to enable the service [to] perform its role,” Amosu said.
“The challenge the Nigerian Air Force is facing today…is obvious. We have been on for 50 years; some of the platforms that we have are as old as the Nigerian Air Force.”
Nigeria is battling Boko Haram terrorists, primarily in the northeast, and has used the Air Force to conduct strikes against Islamist positions, especially near the border with Cameroon. In December last year, Boko Haram insurgents destroyed two attack helicopters and three retired MiG-21 fighter jets during an attack on an air base in Maiduguri.
The Nigerian Air Force has over the past several years been allocated funding to refurbish many of its aircraft, notably its Lockheed C-130s and Aeritalia G.222 transports. In February 2009 the Nigerian government asked the United States for assistance in refurbishing five of its eight surviving C-130Hs.
Until several years ago, Nigeria’s G.222 aircraft were inoperable. In July 2005 the Nigerian Air Force signed a $74.5 million contract with Alenia Aeronautica to refurbish five G.222s and acquire an additional ex-Italian Air Force example.
The NAF has also reintroduced a number of Alpha Jets into service after refurbishing them. A total of 24 Alpha Jets were acquired in the 1980s but several have been lost in crashes. Apparently 11 have been made flyable again. It is believed that half a dozen stored Aero Vodochody L-39ZA jet trainers will also be reactivated.
According to the proposed 2014 budget, the Nigerian Air Force has been allocated N1.8 billion ($11.2 million) for the acquisition of six Mi-35M attack helicopters. In addition, N1.3 million ($8 000) has been allocated for the reactivation of L-39ZA jet trainers.
Several new aircraft types have been introduced into service over the last several years, including AgustaWestland AW109s, Robinson R66s, and ATR 42-500MP Surveyors. A used Boeing 737-500 was acquired in January last year and will be joined by a 737-400, according to Air Forces Daily. The Presidential Air Fleet was revitalised in 2011 with two Falcon 7Xs and a Gulfstream 550 and a Hawker 4000 in 2012.
There have been rumours that the Nigerian Air Force has taken delivery of Super Tucano light attack/trainer aircraft from Embraer. Apparently two were seen at Makurdi late last month, according to the Beegeagle blog. In November last year Nigerian Vice President Namadi Sambo expressed interest in purchasing the Super Tucano during a meeting with his Brazilian counterpart Michel Temer.