The Nigerian Air Force has formally inducted into service the two new Mi-35M attack helicopters, out of 12 ordered from Russian Helicopters in September 2015.
The two aircraft were introduced into service during the Nigerian Air Force’s (NAF’s) 53rd anniversary celebrations on 22 April in Makurdi. The ceremony was attended by Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, and Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammad Dan-Ali, who represented President and Commander -in-Chief Muhammadu Buhari.
The induction of the helicopters will enhance NAF’s operational effectiveness and capability in the fight against insurgency and other forms of criminalities in the country, the NAF said in a statement. The modern Mi-35M attack helicopter has night capabilities in comparison to the earlier version and also has higher performance, more endurance and it is fitted with glass cockpit to enhance situational awareness during operations.
Dan-Ali said successes recorded so far against Boko Haram were made possible through training and acquisition of platforms and equipment for the Armed Forces and other security agencies. “Training and the recent acquisition of brand new platforms and other supporting equipment for our armed forces including other security agencies were also intensified. This was in practical fulfilment of my promise to re-professionalise and adequately equip our military so they could effectively discharge their constitutional responsibilities. The successes recorded so far have restored our pride and honour in the comity of nations. I urge you to consolidate on the gains of air power towards sustaining the peace and stability we have attained so far,” he said.
Abubakar said the Mi-35Ms will “significantly boost the effectiveness and combat capability of the Nigerian Air Force, especially in the counter insurgency operations in the northeast. The president has also approved the acquisition of additional platforms which will soon be delivered to the Nigerian Air Force. Within the last 20 months or so the president’s support has helped to reposition the Nigerian Air Force into a professional and disciplined air force capable of timely employment of air power, in response to our national security challenges.”
During the NAF day celebration Abubakar also presented a ceremonial colour to the newly established Special Operations Command (SOC) and celebrated the awarding of pilot wings to six NAF pilots. Two of the pilots were trained at King Hussain Air College in Jordan and four at the International Helicopter Flying School in Enugu.
The previous day the NAF test fired locally made 30 mm rockets developed by its Research and Development team. They were fired from a vehicle during the Weapons Meet at Kwenev Air Range. F-7Ni fighters fired rockets and cannon during the demonstration as well. Other aircraft that took part included A109 helicopters, L-39ZA and Alpha Jet trainers.
In his speech on 22 April Abubakar highlighted the active participation of the NAF in various peacekeeping operations especially the recent Operation Restore Democarcy in Gambia which saw NAF as the only air force undertake a combat deployment to Gambia.
Other activities during the closing ceremony were aerial and static displays of various NAF platforms and hardware as well as a colourful ceremonial parade. L-39ZAs fitted with rocket pods and cannon were displayed, as well as the indigenous Gulma unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The Nigerian Air Force is expecting to take delivery of the remaining 12 Mi-35Ms by the end of 2018. The first two arrived in Nigeria in December 2016. 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 soldiers.