The Nigerian Navy has taken delivery of a new AW139 from Italy’s Leonardo Helicopters, after the aircraft was ordered in 2016.
The arrival of the aircraft (registration 312) was announced by the Nigerian Navy last week. Rear Admiral Ifeola Mohammed, Chief of Policy and Plans of the Nigerian Navy, said during a press conference that the Navy’s new AW139 is currently being inducted.
The aircraft, with experimental serial number CSX81969, (msn 31882) was seen undergoing test flights in Italy in November and December 2019.
In September 2016 AgustaWestland (now Leonardo Helicopters) announced that the Nigerian government had ordered four AW139 helicopters configured for corporate transport and search and rescue (SAR) missions.
“The helicopters will be operated by the Nigerian State House, the Government of River States and the Nigerian Navy,” the company said at the time.
The Nigerian Navy previously took over an AW139 from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). This was handed over in September 2018 after being acquired in 2007. The aircraft was seen in a hangar along with the new AW139 last week in a partially disassembled state.
The Nigerian Navy flies a single Bell 206, an Airbus Helicopters AS365N2 Dauphin II, and an AgustaWestland AW109E Power.
Mohammed added that the Nigerian Navy will commission a third locally built Seaward Defence Boat (SDB) this year as well as 12 Manta class boats. Another 24 river patrol boats will also enter service later this year.
“Thirty six Rigid Inflatable Boats were also procured, with another batch of 56 programmed for delivery in 2020,” he said.
The additional equipment comes as the Nigerian Navy faces a resurgence in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Mohammed said Nigeria saw 70 incidences of piracy in 2016, 48 in 2017, 36 in 2018 and 21 in 2019, with only seven successful last year.
“As at May 20, there were nine pirate attacks of which only two were successful and seven unsuccessful,” he said.