The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has taken delivery of the first two of 12 Mi-35M attack helicopters ordered from Russian Helicopters in September 2015 as part of a continuing armed forces modernisation programme.
Addressing journalists at a media briefing held in Abuja on January 6, NAF Chief of Air Staff Sadique Abubakar said the two helicopters, which were delivered in December, would soon be commissioned into service.
“The aircraft have been delivered and are now awaiting official induction, after which they will be commissioned to take part in military operations,” Abubakar said. In terms of the acquisition deal signed between the two parties, Russian Helicopters is due to complete aircraft deliveries by the end of 2018.
The Mi-35M is powered by two Klimov VK-2500 turbo-shaft engines. It has an updated navigation and avionics suite which features multi-function coloured displays and target sighting systems, including a thermal imager and laser rangefinder. Apart from the attack role, the Mi-35M can be used for landing or transporting up to 8 fully-equipped paratroopers.
In addition to the new acquisitions, Abubakar said NAF had in 2016 revived three EC-135 helicopters from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), which were delivered in March. In collaboration with Aero Contractors of Nigeria, two of the helicopters were reactivated. Two more Russian-made Mi-35P helicopters are being reactivated.
Nigeria has confirmed an order for three JF-17 Thunder fighter jets from Pakistan and late last year received the first four of ten Super Mushshak piston trainers from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). Deliveries are set to conclude later this year.
The air force chief said last year 13 aircraft were brought back into service, out of 15 that were grounded and the remaining two are being worked on. He added that a total of 869 aviation personnel, including 101 pilots and 357 engineers and technicians, were trained outside the country in 2016. Internally, the air force trained 4 868 personnel including 131 pilots and 643 engineers and technicians. 14 pilots recently graduated and became fighter pilots, with further pupils training in Nigeria, Jordan and Egypt.
The Nigerian Air Force flew 6 000 hours last year.