In addition to twelve new Super Tucanos from the United States, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will be taking delivery of six AW109 helicopters from Italy’s Leonardo.
This is according to Nigerian Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who revealed the acquisition on 8 December during a visit to Kano Air Base, where he examined the capabilities of the 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS) and 465 Nigerian Air Force Hospital (465 NAFH).
“The President Buhari administration has done much in repositioning the Nigerian Air Force,” Abubakar said. “We are also hoping to get 12 brand new aircraft from the United States of America. In addition, we are also hoping to get six brand new helicopter gunships from Italy. So, I think from what we have seen in terms of support, every officer, airman and airwoman in the Nigerian Air Force has every reason to put in his or her best in order to ensure that Nigeria is secure,” the CAS said.
Speaking the day before in Kaduna at the graduation of 769 Nigerian Air Force personnel who were drawn from the Regiment, Air Police and Intelligence specialties, Abubakar said the helicopters from Italy were AW109 Power models.
It is assumed the AW109s will be the AW109M version that can be armed with machinegun pods and 70 mm rocket launchers.
The Nigerian government has already budgeted for two AW109s but more are likely to be ordered as the government allocates more money in future budgets. According to the 2018 Federal Appropriation Bill that was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari on 20 June, the government has set aside nearly N6 billion ($19 million) for the procurement of two new AW109 helicopters from Leonardo Helicopters. These will join the AW109 LUHs already in service with the Nigerian Air Force and the A109Es in service with the Nigerian Navy.
Whilst at 403 FTS, Abubakar inspected progress on the reactivation of three L-39ZA aircraft, which will be used for training as well as counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram militants.
Nigeria’s Super Tucano purchase, meanwhile, is moving ahead, with Sierra Nevada Corporation awarded a contract for 12 of the aircraft in November. On 8 December the Nigerian Air Force said the United States Department of Defence had assured the Nigerian Air Force of its readiness to channel all efforts towards on-schedule delivery of the Super Tucanos. This assurance was given on 3 December by the Director of the United States Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation (AFSAC) Directorate, Brigadier General Sean Farrell, during a meeting between representatives of the US DOD and the NAF, held at the Headquarters NAF in Abuja.
Abubakar applauded the US Government for the support it has rendered to the NAF over the years, which, he noted, had been instrumental in ensuring success in the COIN operations in the Northeast, despite recent setbacks. He said it had also enabled the NAF to project air power within the West African Sub-Region, such as the deployment of NAF aircraft to the Gambia in 2017 which facilitated the peaceful transition of power in that country thereby ensuring the sustenance of democracy.
He reiterated that the Boko Haram menace was not a local problem but a global one, because the consequences of not adequately dealing with the threat would not only impact on Nigeria and the West African Sub-Region but also on other parts of Africa and the rest of the world. This, he noted, underscored the need for international collaboration and cooperation to adequately and decisively deal with the threat.
Abubakar noted that the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq has had the unfortunate effect of exacerbating the problem in Nigeria with transfer of fighters and equipment into and around the West African region. He stressed that the induction of the Super Tucano would greatly enhance the NAF’s capability to more effectively prosecute the war against insurgency in the Northeast. He therefore urged the AFSAC team to do all within its power to ensure that at least 2 of the aircraft are delivered to Nigeria even before the new delivery date of 2021.