The Nigerian Air Force has ordered eight unmanned aerial vehicles from China, with training of 70 personnel ready to begin.
This is according to the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who on 8 October revealed that eight ‘unmanned combat aerial vehicles’ would soon arrive in Nigeria.
“About 70 personnel, who are to operate and maintain the UCAVs, had already been nominated for training in China. He further disclosed that some of the UCAVs would be deployed in Katsina and Gusau, while others would be deployed to Gombe, at the newly established 203 Combat Reconnaissance Group (203 CRG) Gombe,” the Nigerian Air Force said.
“These UCAVs will bring substantial value to what we are doing. The whole idea is to send the right message to Nigerians that the Federal Government is doing everything humanly possible to ensure that our communities are safe”, the CAS said.
Meanwhile, the 2021 Nigerian defence budget proposal lists the procurement of three PD-1 UAVs, two payloads and two ground control stations for 271 million Naira ($700 000). The PD-1 is manufactured by Ukraine’s Ukrspecsystems. It is available in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and conventional takeoff and landing configurations. The manufacturer says it comes standard with an electro-optical/infrared camera and is “well suited for surveillance, aerial photography, agriculture, search and rescue and public safety applications.” The PD-1 is in service with Ukraine’s armed forces.
In May this year it emerged that Nigeria, and Uganda, will be receiving Aerosonde Mk 4.7 UAVs from the United States after contracts were placed with Textron Systems. The US Department of Defence (DoD) on 8 May announced that AAI Corporation (Textron Systems) had been awarded a $25 610 000 firm-fixed-price contract for three Aerosonde Mk 4.7 systems, spares, logistics and training for Nigeria. “Work will be performed in Nigeria, with an estimated completion date of September 30, 2021,” the DoD said.
The Nigerian Air Force is investing heavily in UAVs and is developing its own intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAV, the Tsaigumi, which was unveiled in February 2018. In February this year the Nigerian Air Force said it had trained 20 personnel in India and the United States on how to handle UAVs. This included 12 personnel trained as software developers in the US and eight in India on cyber security.
The Nigerian Air Force is known to operate several CH-3A unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The CH-3A has been deployed in the North East of Nigeria, where the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole used it against Boko Haram terrorists – Nigerian CH-3s have been armed with surface-to-air missiles (the CH-3 can be fitted with FT-5 guided bombs or AR-1 missiles).
Nigeria previously developed the Amebo and Gulma UAV prototypes and acquired nine Aerostars from Israel’s Aeronautics Defence Systems (ADS) between 2006 and 2007.