After receiving of six out of the 12 United State A-29 super Tucano fighter jets, the Nigerian government is planning to acquire M-346 multirole aircraft to intensify the fight against terrorists, bandits and violent secessionists.
In addition to fighting Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters, Nigeria is facing deadly bandits, kidnappers and insurgents.
The search for more sophisticated weapons is believed would be a game changer in enforcing security and peace.
The first set of A29 American sophisticated fighters will be inducted into the fleet of the Nigerian Air Force, in a ceremony to be witnessed by top US diplomats on August 29, 2021.
Nigeria has also acquired JF17 bombers from Pakistan and has again give approval for the purchase of 24 M-346 multirole aircraft for the replacement of Alpha Jets as frontline fighters.
Nigeria, in 1980s, acquired two dozens of advanced trainers and tactical-support two-seater Alpha Jet, co-manufactured by Dassault of France and Dornier of Germany.
Apparently the Alpha jets are no longer standard enough to withstand the resilience of fighters and terrorists, having fallen victims for easy attacks in recent times.
Many Alpha Jets have been lost on operations including in March and July of 2021.
Defence Director for Air Force Affairs, Mr Ashibel P. Utsu, disclosed the plan to buy the twin-engine fighter aircraft during a documentary aired on, August 26, 2021 on the expansion of the fleet of the Air Force.
Contract for the delivery of first 12 out of the 24 M-346 jets had been concluded with Yakolev Design Bureau and the Italian co-manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi.
The aircraft comes in two versions, M-346FT (Fighter Trainer) and M-346FA (Fighter Attack).
The documentary showcased the newer M-346FA variant, indicating that Nigeria was going for the attack-oriented version capable of operating in light combat.
The US in December 2017, agreed to sell 12 A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets to Nigeria to assist in counterinsurgency operations in the northeast, where Boko Haram militants operate.
The US presented a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) to then Chief of Air Staff Sadique Abubakar at Air Force headquarters in Abuja, confirming the sale of the A-29 Super Tucano Attack Aircraft.
The US believed that Nigeria’s stability was strategic to the security of the West African sub-region and Washington is committed to helping Abuja decimate Boko Haram and other security threats, Symington said while presenting the LOA.
In April 2020, US Embraer Defense & Security and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), announced that the first of 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack, combat and reconnaissance aircraft for the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), had successfully completed its inaugural flight at the production facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
The full fleet of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft for Nigeria were in production by SNC and Embraer at the Jacksonville facility with delivery to the NAF expected on schedule in 2021.
The NAF A-29 aircraft will now begin mission modification and final testing in Centennial, Colorado. Following final testing, before delivery, NAF pilots will train in the aircraft.
“The aircraft met or exceeded all the requirements and we are very pleased with the successful flight,” stated Ed Topps, vice president of Tactical Aircraft Systems and programs for SNC’s IAS business area.
“SNC and our partner, Embraer, are certain the Nigerian Air Force will be pleased with these aircraft.”
The first six out the fighter were delivered in July 2021 fully kitted and with well training airmen to operate the combat-proven A-29 Super Tucano that is gold standard of light attack combat and reconnaissance aircraft.
On July 21, 2021, the United States said the A-29 Super Tucanos were sold to Nigeria to strengthen the country’s fight against terrorism.
The US’ Chargé d’Affaires Kathleen FitzGibbon said this during the inspection of the newly arrived first.
A statement by United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria quoted FitzGibbon as saying that the aircraft represented a historic level of cooperation achieved between the US and Nigerian militaries.
“Beyond the new hardware that you see on this runway, this programme has brought our two militaries closer in formal training, professional development, air base construction, logistics planning, and negotiations.
“We are proud to partner with Nigeria in its ‘whole of government’ approach to end violent extremism and ensure a more stable, prosperous country for all Nigerians,” Ms FitzGibbon added.