Despite the refusal of the Nigerian Air Force to accompany the army, the Nigerian army will acquire a fixed-wing aircraft for aerial surveillance and ground attack.
The Nigerian Army has been designated to receive three MF-212 ISR and attack aircraft, as well as three Bell UH-1D transport helicopters.
These acquisitions are part of the 2023 budget proposal submitted by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly. Once approved and cleared, the aircraft will be the Nigerian Army’s first fixed-wing aircraft to assist in its fight against Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs).
The MF 212 aircraft and Bell UH-1D helicopters may be the vanguard of a long list of aviation platforms the military can acquire, which may include drones and attack helicopters. Nigeria is expected to receive six new T-129 ATAK helicopters from Turkey and 12 new AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters from the United States. The Nigerian military could also be the recipient of newly acquired Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey for the new UAV command. The new Army UAV Command will mobilize, train and sustain a UAV force that will ensure task proficiency to provide accurate and timely aerial imagery intelligence.
“This will primarily involve interpreting and analyzing the data collected by the drones and translating it into actionable intelligence for rapid dissemination to Nigerian military leaders.”
At this time, it is not yet certain whether the new Nigerian Army UAV Command will operate alongside the Nigerian Air Force Combat Reconnaissance Group (203 CRG) in the state of Gombe. The Nigerian military is known to operate several commercial grade drones from the civilian market.
Reaching the approval stage completes a long and tumultuous journey to acquire these air assets to bolster the Air Force’s counterinsurgency capabilities. The overall military structure has improved considerably in recent years. The army received its fair share of main battle tanks and a wide range of armored fighting vehicles, while the air force acquired several air combat platforms like the multirole fighter aircraft JF-17 Thunder from Pakistan and the A-29 Super Tucano from the United States.
In 2020, the Nigerian Army announced that it plans to procure combat platforms, particularly attack helicopters, to support and provide rapidly deployable firepower to its troops deployed in the field in the Northeast Theater. At the time, the military blamed the lack of air power as the reason for the long fight against terrorism, believing that it needed its own air capability to sustain and conclude the military campaign.
The two-seater MF-212 is a low-wing aircraft with fixed non-retractable landing gear and a cabin in which the crew is located side by side. It is designed for patrols, detection and control of small maneuvering aerial targets and the fight against illegal armed groups.
The MF-212 attack aircraft carries R-60-NT-L guided missiles with the semi-active laser seeker and R-60-NT-T with the thermal imaging seeker. Both missiles are equipped with a new multi-beam laser proximity fuze that provides a continuous field of view, greatly increasing the likelihood of engaging small targets.
The aircraft is equipped with a high-sensitivity three-channel iSky-30 HD electronic optical station that provides automatic target detection, tracking and identification. Additionally, the laser illumination feature provides precise missile guidance with a semi-active laser and passive thermal imaging homing head.
The aircraft will support the Army’s offensive by providing air support to infantry and armor by eliminating terrorist elements, providing aerial surveillance and targeting data for national force artillery.