The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will deploy its eight new armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to three bases across the country as soon as they are delivered from China.
Four of the aircraft, described by the NAF as unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), will be deployed in Gusau, two in Gombe and the remaining two at Operation Lafiya Dole Headquarters in Maiduguri.
This was revealed by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on 5 November during a visit to Gusau in Zamfara State to inspect the site for the proposed runway and other facilities for the UCAVs.
Abubakar said the unmanned aircraft could remain airborne for up to 26 hours, providing a persistent presence over areas of interest. The new aircraft will be used to enhance the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) as well as strike capabilities of the NAF not only in the fight against armed banditry in the Northwest and North Central but also in counterinsurgency operations in the Northeast.
He disclosed that two UCAVs will be deployed at the newly established 203 Combat Reconnaissance Group in Gombe and the two others at the Air Task Force Operation Lafiya Dole Headquarters in Maiduguri.
The acquisition of the new UAVs was revealed in October when Abubakar said that about 70 personnel had already been nominated for training in China. It is not clear what type of aircraft are being acquired. 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).
Abubakar added that the eight new UAVs are in addition to the 22 brand new aircraft already acquired by the Federal Government for the NAF in the last five years, along with the 19 additional aircraft being expected before the end of the second quarter of 2021. The CAS noted that these additional aircraft include 12 A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft, three JF-17 Thunder Fighter Jets, an additional Mi-171E utility helicopter as well as three special mission aircraft that are expected to be handed over to the NAF from NIMASA for maritime operations.
Abubakar revealed that about 195 NAF personnel were undergoing various ground and aircrew training in nine different countries across the world to ensure that as soon as these additional aircraft arrive Nigeria they would be effectively and efficiently utilized to further enhance the security of Nigeria and Nigerians in the various theatres of operation.