Nigerian Air Force confirms 50 new aircraft are on the way

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The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has confirmed plans to acquire 50 new aircraft in the next year, from combat jets to attack helicopters.

Chief of Air Staff, Marshal Hasan Bala Abubakar, speaking during the opening of new aviation facilities in Katsina State on 18 June, said the aircraft include 12 Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, 24 Leonardo multirole M-346 jets, 12 Leonardo Helicopters AW109 multipurpose helicopters, and two Airbus C295 transport aircraft.

The NAF expects to receive the aircraft by 2025. The acquisition is part of the government’s efforts to modernise the Nigerian military and enhance its ability to tackle security challenges in the country. The new aircraft will be used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat operations against insurgents and criminals.

Previous announcements from the NAF indicate it plans to also acquire two AW109 Trekker helicopters from Leonardo Helicopters, two King Air 360 twin turboprops from Textron Aviation, four DA 62 surveillance aircraft from Diamond Aircraft, six T-129 helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries, and three Wing Loong II unmanned aerial vehicles from Chengdu.

The NAF received the last of its four DA 62 aircraft in October 2023, and these are fitted with Hensoltd Argos II HDT electro-optical gimbals. Since the first arrived in February 2023, they have been deployed to operating theatres in support of ongoing efforts to restore peace and stability in troubled areas within the country. It is also understood that three Wing Loong IIs have been delivered, and that the first King Air 360ER arrived from Textron Aviation in November 2023.

The first T-129 was taken into service in February this year and allocated to the Nigerian Air Force’s 115th Special Operations Group at Port Harcourt. The unit currently operates a mix of Mi-24P, Mi-24V and Mi-35 heavy assault/attack helicopters, together with Airbus Helicopters EC135s for observation and reconnaissance. The remaining four T-129s will be received from Turkish Aerospace Industries by year-end.

The Nigerian Army, meanwhile, is acquiring 12 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters from MD Helicopters and last week received two of three Bell UH-1H ‘Huey’ helicopters for its new aviation wing.

Meanwhile, the NAF earlier this month said it achieved a maintenance-related milestone with an in-country 4800 hours maintenance inspection on a Dornier 228 aircraft for the first time. “This level of scheduled maintenance on the Do 228 aircraft, previously performed by foreign Maintenance Repair Organizations (MROs), was completed at a significantly cheaper rate and with reduced aircraft downtime,” the NAF said.

Air Vice Marshal Olanrewaju Oyename previously said that the inspection of the aircraft (NAF 031), began in May 2021 but faced several delays, primarily due to challenges in acquiring necessary spare parts. “This is history, and you made it happen. This is the first PDM [Periodic Depot Maintenance] on a NAF aircraft conducted entirely by NAF personnel in the First Engineering Unit of the NAF at the Premier NAF Base in Kaduna,” he said.

NAF Do 228 PDM.

Commanding Officer of 30 Engineering Wing, Wing Commander Micheal Aransiola, explained that the 4 800-hour inspection was the highest level of maintenance carried out on the Do 228 aircraft. He then detailed the five-phase processes of the PDM as follows: Phase I involved acceptance, documentation and docking; Phase II included paint stripping and removal of components; Phase III focused on repairing discrepancies; Phase IV involved reinstallation of components and operational checks; and Phase V concluded with ground checks, taxi checks, and a Functional Check Flight.

New and refurbished assets are being used by the NAF to fight insurgency, terrorism, banditry, and oil theft. Earlier this month Abubakar highlighted the achievements of the Nigerian Air Force over the past year, in spite of challenges posed by Nigeria’s harsh economic realities, including high youth unemployment, increasing inflation, and multi-dimensional poverty.

“The NAF, so far, has achieved modest yet significant progress in fighting insurgency, terrorism, banditry, oil theft, and other criminal activities in the country,” he said. For example, NAF assets during Operation Hadarin Daji on 15 June eliminated over 80 terrorists at a hideout in Katsina State, along with 45 motorcycles.

“The strikes became necessary following intelligence that terrorists numbering over 100 were reported burning houses at a settlement about 5 kms away from Gidan Kare Village. Overhead the village at about 8.30pm, several houses were observed to be on fire with the entire village in pandemonium. Moments later, 12 motor cycles were seen departing the village and trailed along a footpath out of the village to a location near Gidan Kare Village and Kuka Shidda Camp, where they joined up with a large number of their cohorts. Other terrorists were also observed arriving the location from different directions, an indication that the location was a massing up point with the terrorists likely planning to further attack nearby villages,” the NAF stated.

“Having been presented such a rare opportunity, authorization was sought, obtained and the location was immediately struck at exactly 9:40pm, with over 80 terrorists confirmed eliminated and about 45 motorcycles burnt down, while few surviving terrorists were observed fleeing or limping off. Further intelligence received after the strike also revealed that the terrorists were closely linked with notorious terrorists kingpin Yusuf Yellow and his close associate Rabe Imani. These strikes, along with others before now, have no doubt disrupted terrorists activities in the area.”