The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has taken delivery of a second Mi-171E helicopter, with the aircraft arriving aboard an Il-76 transport on 2 December.
The NAF said the aircraft (registration 582) arrived at NAF Base Makurdi where it was received by Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command (AOC TAC), Air Vice Marshal Olusegun Philip, on behalf of the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
A combined team of NAF personnel and technical support staff from the equipment vendor were also on hand to assist in offloading the new aircraft, some parts of which came in crates. In addition, officials of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigeria Immigration Service were present to ensure the necessary documentation was processed.
“The new aircraft is the second of two Mi-171E helicopters procured by the current Federal Government Administration and brings to 23 the total number of brand new aircraft acquired since 2015,” the NAF said. The 23 aircraft include Mi-35M, AW109M, Bell 412 and Super Mushshak types. The NAF is still to receive three JF-17 Thunder jet fighters and 12 EMB 314/A-29 Super Tucano light attack turboprops along with eight Wing Loong II, CH-3 and CH-4 unmanned aerial vehicles.
“The new aircraft will undoubtedly boost NAF’s contributions in the fight against insurgency, armed banditry and other criminal activities in the country. The newly-received aircraft will now be assembled in Makurdi by a team from the equipment vendor, assisted by NAF technicians, prior to test-flying and formal induction into the NAF.”
The NAF said the aircraft was the second acquired from Serbia. However, it is likely the aircraft was manufactured in Russia and possibly acquired through a Serbian broker as flight tracking data shows the helicopter was delivered aboard Ilyushin Il-76TD RA-76502 operated by Russian private charter carrier Aviacon Zitotrans, which flew the transport from central Russia to North Africa on 1 December, bypassing Serbia. The Il-76TD took off from near Kazan, Russia, where Mi-8/17 helicopters are manufactured at the Kazan Helicopters factory.
The NAF received its first Mi-171E (registration 581) at the beginning of the year and it was officially inducted into service during a ceremony attended by President Muhammadu Buhari on 6 February along with two new AW109M helicopters. At the time, Buhari said, “I commend the support of the Governments of Italy and the Russian Federation, in particular efforts of the Italian and Russian Ambassador to Nigeria at sustaining the strategic partnership between our countries, which facilitated this acquisition.” At the time he made no mention of Serbia.
Nigeria has acquired most of its rotorcraft from Russia, although the NAF received two second hand Mi-24P/Mi-35P aircraft from Belarus in 2010 and two Mi-24P/Mi-35Ps from the Ukraine in 2014.
Nigeria has ordered a number of Mi-series helicopters over the last decade, receiving, three Mi-35Ms from Russia in 2014 and six Mi-171Sh armed transports from Russia in 2015. Another six Mi-35Ms were delivered in 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI’s) arms transfers database. SIPRI records that Nigeria currently has 12 Mi-35Ms on order, with six already delivered (from April 2017).