Nigerian Air Force reintroduces four Alpha Jets into service

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The Nigerian Air Force has finished upgrading four of its 24 Alpha Jet trainers and will soon return them to service.

The Nigerian Air Force’s (NAF’s) Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Mohammed Umar, said that the jets were reactivated in an effort to ensure combat readiness. The Nigerian Air Force has over the last several years been upgrading and modernising its equipment, much of which has been or remains inoperable. It is not yet clear if the NAF will upgrade its other 20 Alpha Jets.

Umar was speaking at a two-day logistics conference entitled, “Enhancing the existing logistics management system for efficient NAF air operations”, held at Sam Ethnan Air Force Base, Ikeja, Lagos, last week.

The Nigerian Daily Independent quoted Umar as saying that the four jets were upgraded by a firm in Germany as the original manufacturer, Dassault-Dornier, no longer exists.

Umar added that the aircraft had been returned to their base in Kainji, Kogi State, waiting to fly.

Nigeria originally received 24 Alpha Jets, but the IISS 2010 Military Balance only listed six as being combat capable. The upgrade of the four aircraft was meant to occur sooner but a lack of funds had stalled the project.

Umar noted that upon taking office in September last year, his administration has viewed logistics as an important aspect of Air Force operations. He said that the increase in Nigerian Air Force operating tempo over the years had consistently challenged its logistics readiness – much of Nigeria’s air force has been declared not airworthy. The Air Force came close to collapse following its involvement in an attempt to topple General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime in 1985, after which it was starved of funds and support. However, in 1999 the Air Force began a modernisation drive.

Nevertheless, many aircraft are stored in non-flyable condition and have been earmarked for disposal or sale, including Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s, Sepecat Jaguars, Lockheed C-130s, Aero Vodochody L-39s and Dornier Do 128s (although one C-130 was refurbished in 2009). Other aircraft, including Alpha Jets, Aeritalia G222s and Aerospatiale/Eurocopter Super Pumas are being refurbished.

Nigeria has one of the biggest air forces in West Africa, which was recently boosted by an order for 15 Chengdu F7s from China, comprising 12 F7-Ni fighters and three FT-7NI trainers. These have replaced its grounded MiG-21s. Deliveries were completed in the middle of last year.

Other recent purchases include two ATR 42 maritime patrol aircraft, the first of which was delivered in December 2009, as well as AgustaWestland AW109 light utility helicopters, an extra G222 and five Super Pumas, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.