Nigeria signs agreement with Turkey’s Dearsan for the upgrade of flagship NNS Aradu

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The Nigerian Navy (NN) has signed an agreement with Turkey’s Dearsan for the mid-life upgrade of the Nigerian fleet’s flagship, NNS Aradu, and the supply of a 57 metre long Tuzla-class patrol vessel.

The agreement was inked on 6 June, marking a milestone in the naval partnership between the two nations. The refurbishment and project for the NNS Aradu, originally built by German shipyard Blohm & Voss in 1982 and commissioned in 1985, will be conducted at Dearsan Shipyard’s facility in Tuzla, Istanbul.

The NNS Aradu is a Meko 360 class vessel with a length of 125 metres and displacement of 3 500 tons. It is powered by two Rolls-Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbines generating 50 880 shp, and two MTU 20V 956 TM92 diesel engines providing 10 420 bhp, giving a speed of 30.5 knots (56.5 km/h) and a range of 6 500 nautical miles (12 000 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h). The complement of the NNS Aradu consists of 195 personnel, including 26 officers.

The frigate is armed with eight Otomat Mk 1 ship-to-ship missiles, 24 Aspide surface-to-air missiles, a 127 mm OTO Melara Otobreda 127/54 Compact gun, eight Bofors 40 mm guns, 6 324 mm (13 in) torpedo tubes, and a depth charge rack. The frigate has the capacity to carry a single Lynx helicopter.

Furthermore, as part of the contract, Dearsan Shipyard will also be delivering a brand new Tuzla-class patrol boat, measuring 57 meters in length. Sources indicate that this particular vessel was initially intended for Libya; however, due to unforeseen complications, the delivery could not be completed. Once the delivery is completed, the Nigerian Navy will become the fourth to operate Tuzla-class vessels, following the Turkish Naval Forces, Turkmenistan Navy, and Turkmenistan Coast Guard Command.

A Tuzla class patrol vessel.

In addition, Dearsan Shipyard is currently building two OPV 76 offshore patrol vessels for the Nigerian Navy. The shipyard laid the keel of the first vessel in September 2022, and it is anticipated that both vessels will be completed and delivered within a timeframe of 37 months, as stated by company officials. The Chief of the Nigerian Navy had previously announced in October 2021, during the signing of the agreement, that these offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) will possess the capability to carry out various naval operations, including maritime interdiction operations, surveillance missions, special forces operations, and providing naval fire support to land forces.

Furthermore, Turkey has expressed its intention to strengthen defence industry cooperation with Nigeria, which stands as its sixth largest trading partner in Africa. Both countries aim to elevate the bilateral trading volume from last year’s $2 billion to a target of $5 billion. To facilitate this, a new defence industry cooperation agreement was signed during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Abuja on 22 October 2021. This agreement has provided Turkish companies with a legal foundation for the sale of arms and ammunition. These routine agreements signed by Turkey with several African countries enable Turkish defence contractors to focus on their target markets effectively.

Following the high-level visit of Erdogan in 2021, diplomatic relations between Turkey and Nigeria have gained significant momentum. In November 2021, the Nigerian Ministry of Defence initiated a tender for the acquisition of attack helicopters, attracting the bid of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with its T-129 ATAK helicopter. However, the T-129 ATAK has encountered recurring challenges related to licensing rights for its engine, stemming from the US sanctions imposed on Turkey following its purchase of Russian S-400 long-range air-defence missiles from Rosoboronexport. As a result, Nigeria ultimately requested to purchase 12 American AH-1Z attack helicopters for $1 billion in 2022, and this year Nigeria ordered 12 Cayuse Warrior Plus helicopters from MD Helicopters.

Meanwhile, recent reports in the Turkish media indicate Nigeria’s interest in procuring military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Baykar. Although no official announcement has been made regarding the specific models, it was speculated that Nigeria was considering the acquisition of either the newly developed Akinci heavy-weight strike UAV or the combat-proven Bayraktar TB2. Since then, photographs of Nigerian Air Force TB2s being assembled in Turkey have surfaced online. While the Nigerian Air Force has yet to confirm these reports publicly, there have been indications that at least a portion of these aircraft has already been delivered.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.