The first of two AgustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters for the Nigerian Air Force has performed its maiden flight. Once delivered, it will join Nigeria’s helicopter fleet, which is set to expand following a recent order for an estimated 40 Mi-35M and Mi-171Sh helicopters.
The AW101 took to the air for the first time at AgustaWestland’s facility in the United Kingdom on September 19. It was originally destined for the Indian Air Force but diverted to Nigeria after the contract with India was cancelled over bribery and corruption allegations.
Nigeria will in the future take delivery of a number of new helicopters from Russia after concluding a deal with the country in August. Sergei Goreslavsky, a deputy director general at Rostec, told ITAR-TASS that the contract involves “a significant number of Mi-171Sh helicopters and several Mi-35M helicopters.” Rosoboronexport, which sells Russia’s military equipment overseas, falls under Rostec.
In April this year the Nigerian Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Adesola Amosu announced that new fighters and helicopters would be acquired for the Air Force. The Nigerian Budget Office has allocated funding for six Mi-35Ms this year. The Nigerian Air Force currently flies around eight of the type. Nigerian media report that the Air Force has ordered 40 helicopters from the United States and Russia but did not specify which models.
Goreslavsky said that the Mi-171 was a popular helicopter in Africa and that Mozambique had expressed interest in the type, which was promoted by Rosoboronexport at the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2014 exhibition in Pretoria last month. Rosoboronexport said the exhibition was the most important venue for the promotion of weapons and military equipment to the African continent, especially to sub-Saharan countries.
“Although these states account for a relatively small share in total sales (about two percent), there has been a steadily growing order dynamics in recent years. This fully corresponds with the overall tendency for strengthening and developing Russia’s relations with the countries in the region”, said Yuri Demchenko, a Rosoronexport special projects director heading its delegation to the exhibition.
Rosoboronexport was promoting equipment like the Yak-130 combat trainer jet, Il-76MD-90A military transport aircraft, Mi-35M combat helicopter, littoral monitoring system, patrol boats, tactical combat command and control system, BMP-3 infantry combat vehicle, BTR-80A armoured personnel carrier, Kornet-E/Kornet-EM antitank missile systems and small arms.
Demchenko said Rosoboronexport was willing to offer equipment or jointly develop it in partnership with BRICS countries. “Partnering in research, engineering and production is what can become a major drive in developing our cooperation.”
Contracts concluded with sub-Saharan countries in 2013-2014 amounted to about $1.7 billion. A good groundwork has been laid in recent years for the cooperation with Nigeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea, Rosoboronexport said, with prospects for the delivery of weapons and military equipment to Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Djibouti, Ethiopia and other countries.