The Nigerian Army is considering the acquisition of new South African-made Rooivalk, Russian-made Mi-17, French-made H125 and some Chinese-made helicopters to equip a newly formed Army Aviation Corps.
According to a report published by the Nigerian daily newspaper ThisDay, the establishment of the Nigerian Army (NA) Aviation Corps was revealed by Nigerian Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai when he addressed the 2016 First Quarter Chief of Army Staff Conference in Abja on Wednesday.
Buratai said the new stand-alone counter-terrorism air unit will be tasked specifically with providing aerial support to ground forces fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in the north and north-east of the country and guaranteeing long-term national security.
“All activities towards building the NA Aviation Corps are still in progress. It is hoped that very soon, the NA would be able to acquire its own platforms to enable the corps kick off wholly. So far, the main activities that have been undertaken are the training of the pilots and technicians and also necessary negotiations towards the acquisition of helicopters.
“We have compiled a list of platforms from Russian, American and Chinese origin, including certain simulators and UAVs,” the general said.
“Emphasis was however made on the Russian made Mi-17 due to its ruggedness, operability and multi-role capability. As a result, different contractors submitted their proposals for supply, which are still being considered.
“Recently, the NA also considered the South African made Rooivalk attack helicopters after witnessing a demonstration in South Africa on the capability of the platforms and its employability.”
A Nigerian delegation visited South Africa in February when Denel held a Rooivalk demonstration at the Denel Overberg Test Range in the Western Cape, during which the Rooivalk fired two Mokopa precision guided missiles as part of ongoing qualification testing. Mike Kgobe, CEO of Denel Aviation, told defenceWeb that the demonstration was based on renewed interest expressed in the helicopter, especially following its performance with the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Denel is seeking to upgrade the Rooivalk and also develop a next generation Rooivalk Mk 2, which is being offered to potential foreign clients like Nigeria, Poland and Egypt.
“Additionally, a company called Caverton [Helicopters] has proposed to supply three H125 helicopters and maintenance services which the NA is also considering as an option,” Buratai said.
Ten pilots who will form the core of the new aviation corps are undergoing flight training at the International Helicopter Flying School in Enugu. They are expected to graduate in May.