Nigerian Air Force - Equipment Overview
Nigeria's involvement in peace missions in the Congo and Tanganyika in 1961 whereby foreign air forces assisted in airlifting her troops to these theatres of war coupled with the desire to provide a full complement of forces to enhance the country's military posture that influenced the establishment of the NAF in April 1964. At inception, NAF had only 1 x Nord Atlas and 1 x DC-3. Later, the German Air Force Technical Assistance Group (GAF TAG) provided 2 x DO-27 aircraft, 2 x Mercedes Benz cars and a Land Rover vehicle for NAF use.
In the 1980s the NAF, during its program of Aeronautical and Industrial Engineering Project (AIEP), developed an indigenous light trainer aircraft (air beetle ABT-18) to facilitate training. Within this period of NAF high technical capability, 60 of the ABT-18 aircraft were produced locally for its primary training program. Then this feat was an initial step towards enlisting Nigeria as among countries that manufacturers aircraft. This development, if continued would have been contributing to Nigeria’s national development. However, the present technical capability of the NAF has declined.
The acquisition process should have been based on threat perception followed by available capability for maintenance and sustenance through its life-cycle. Acquisitions of aircraft were, based on prestige and grandiose display of wealth and were vendor driven rather than on need basis. None of the officers interviewed by one analyst "could give the strategic circumstances that led to procurement of the MIG 21 and Jaguar FGA aircraft." [VC Akiti, Management of NAF Resources: Emerging Issues, NAFCON 98, 10 December 1998.] The NAF within the 40 years of her existence had operated 29 different aircraft types and weapon systems from 9 different countries. Maintenance of these platforms has been a nightmare to NAF engineering due to lack of standardisation, incompatibility and interoperability.
After the Nigerian civil war (1967–1970), the Federal Government procured and equipped the NAF with diverse aircraft and weapon systems. Government secured the services of technical assistance from industrialised vendor countries who worked alongside trained NAF technicians to ensure adequate support of these platforms at all times. Accordingly, NAF activities peaked from 1975 to 1987 but started to decline thereafter culminating to the present low conditions. By 2004 over 95% of the whole NAF aircraft and weapon systems have been grounded due to dwindling engineering support. Out of a total number of 166 aircraft in the NAF, about 149 have been grounded and are in various conditions of disrepair.
The NAF ORBAT as at February 2007 was follows:
- Fighter Fleet. The 14 Alpha Jet ground attack aircraft located at Kainji were the only fixed wing combat aircraft currently in flying status. A total of 23 Mig-21 Air Defence Interceptors had been grounded since 1988. And the 15 Jaguar Recce Interdiction aircraft had also been grounded since 1988.
- Transport Fleet. The NAF operated the C-130H and the G-222 for heavy and medium air lift respectively. Also, the Do-228 was available for light transport and liaison duties. The G-222s were all grounded while undergoing fleet reactivation and upgrade, while all the C-130s were grounded, as they had been scheduled for Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM). The serviceability of the Do-228 and C-130 as at February 2007 ranged from 15% to 0%. The 11 DO- 128-6 Liaison Transports were grounded, while the 5 DO–228 Liaison Transports were operational.
- Helicopters Fleet. The NAF helicopter fleet comprised the Super Puma helicopter and the Mi-35P armed helicopter. As at February 2007 the Super Puma fleet was grounded, although there are efforts for its reactivation. The current serviceability status of the Mi-35P was on the average 33%.
- Trainer Fleet. For primary flying training, the NAF had the ABT-18 aircraft for ab-intio training. The L-39ZA, MB-339 and Mi34 were used for basic flying training. The MB-339 fleet was grounded awaiting activation of a signed contract for its upgrade while the serviceability rate of the L-39ZA as at February 2007 was 25%.
The sustenance of high aircraft serviceability requires the continuous availability of aircraft spares. As of 2007,the operations of NAF aircraft fleet were affected by the scarcity of aircraft spares. For example, the Super Puma, and G222 hade been grounded for over 10 years due to the non-availability of spares to conduct 1000 hrs and 800 hrs inspections, respectively. Conversely, due to the grounding of some Alpha Jets due to lack of minor but fast moving spares, about 1,445 Alpha Jet line items in the storage were not required for over a period of 5 years.
Between 2001 and 2008, the Nigerian Armed Forces entered into contractual agreements and/or taken delivery of the following:
- FIFTEEN F-7 jets valued at US$251m
- Refurbishment+upgrade of FIVE G-222 medium-lift aircraft at US$69m
- Refurbishment+upgrade of EIGHT C-130 Hercules military transport planes at US$120m
- Refurbishment+upgrade of TWELVE Aermacchi MB-339 advanced trainer/light attack jets at US$84m
- Refurbishment+upgrade of TWENTY-ONE L-39 Albatross advanced trainer/light attack jets
- Refurbishment+upgrade of TWELVE Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma utility choppers
- Refurbishment+upgrade of ELEVEN Eurocopter AS-532 Super Puma/Cougar utility choppers
- Unmanned Aerial and Maritime surveillance systems at US$260m
- TWO ATR-42MP Surveyor maritime patrol aircraft at US$83m
The NAF faced undue delay in the delivery of its aircraft consignment from China after nearly 3 years of contract agreement. According to the Chief of Air Staff, in January 2009, during a public hearing before the house committee on Air Force, that “more than three years after a N30 billion contract was awarded to a Chinese company for the supply of 18 F-7Ni aircraft for military flying operations of the NAF, delivery is yet to be done”. This was due to reasons that the Federal Government of Nigeria [FGN] had not completed the balance (15 percent) of the contract sum with the company because it was agreed that complete payment of the contract sum be paid before delivery be made. At that time over 85 percent payment had been made by the Nigerian government. The contract was awarded to a Chinese aviation firm at the cost of $551 million, equivalent of N30 billion, out of which the federal government has paid $500 million or equivalent of N25 billion, leaving a balance of 15 percent to be paid.
The NAF has rationalised her platforms reducing them from 17 to 12 aircraft types. The number of aircraft fleets in the NAF is still unmanageable within the available level of engineering support. It is obvious, going by the present economic disposition; Nigeria cannot still sustain the present number of aircraft fleets. The fleets could be considerably pruned down as NAF can hardly maintain all the fleet of aircraft. The L-39ZA and the MB-339 aircraft, which are performing similar functions, could be considered for further rationalisation.
Nigeria took delivery of new inventory combat jets in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including the MiG (Mikoyan-Guverich) -21 and the Sepecat Jaguar. But by the new century the combat jets were mothballed. As late as 2004 NAF planned to reactivate the MIG-21 aircraft fleet, but critics concluded that the execution was not cost-effective considering the huge amount that would be involved. All aircraft in the fleet were grounded since 1989 and were due for overhauling and upgrading due to outdated technology. Ongoing negotiation with ELTO Company of Israel estimated the cost of reactivation at US $173,410,000.00. The benefits that would be derived from the investment might not justify the amount of resources that would be used for the reactivation. The MIG-21 aircraft being grounded for upwards of 16 years without adequate conservation would require extensive repairs, modifications and upgrading.
By 2010, Nigeria's lead fighter was the Alpha jet light combat-trainer. The 2005 Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly and signed by President Olusegun Obasanjo has provision of N3 billion [roughly US$25,000,000] for the "procurement of Chinese aircraft" for the NAF. In August 2009 it was reported that Nigeria had signed an agreement with a Chinese firm for the supply of new combat jets - the (Finback) F-8IIM - to the service. Discussions on the new jets had begun in 2003. In August 2010 Reuters reported that Nigeria was a potential bulk buyer of the J-10 fighter. By one estimate, a J-10 cost the PLA Air Force about 190 million yuan ($27.84 million), compared to the $15 million-plus price tag on a US F-16 fighter.
Beegeagle's Blog reported in July 2012 that the aircraft in view would almost certainly be of Western origin. The Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Mohammad Dikko Umar was expected to participate at the 12th International Fighter Conference 2012, taking place in the United Kingdom. The Air Chief is expected to present a paper at the event. All the participating production outfits are expected to be Western defense suppliers. His presentation, "Redefining The Role Of The Nigerian Air Force To Promote Internal And Regional Stability: Recent Fighter Upgrade And Maintenance Plans" included discussion of the role of Nigerian fighters in air to ground missions, recent successes using the Chengdu J-7 in air-to-ground missions, and prospects for utilising MB-339 and L-39 trainer aircraft for active missions. The NAF could also rationalise the C-130 fleet reducing the strength to 2, which is considered a number that the country could comfortably manage. The rest of the Fleet including the G-222 aircraft and the Super Puma helicopters could be decommissioned and traded off, as it will take enormous resources to make them airworthy.
Nigeria needed to be able to perform periodic domestic depot maintenance on the C-130 fleet. The Air Force would like to develop the research and development capacity to manufacture C-130 spare parts in Nigeria. As of 2001 two of the eight Nigerian C-130s were operable, but all eight had sound airframes and could be repaired. In early 2008 Nigeria sold three C-130Hs to the Government of Senegal (GOS), using the Israeli firm A.D. Consultants as a middleman. The GOS had transferred the $6.1 million to the GON, but the sale was pending due to Department of State inaction on the Third Party Transfer (TPT) request. This whole affair likely arose due to a few MOD civil servants intentionally failing to follow the law, possibly for personal gain (the sale money was deposited into an unauthorized bank account). But it is also part of an historical pattern of the failure of MOD management to practice due diligence and take the time to read and understand the Air Force's contractual obligations -- and a long-term turf battle between MOD and NAF over NAF assets.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|