Nigeria looking for more attack aircraft

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Jeremy Binnie, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
09 February 2015


One of the proposals submitted to Nigeria includes Puma helicopters upgraded into gunships, the only example of which is the SOCAT version of the Romanian IAR 330. Source: IAR

Key Points
  • The NAF is looking at proposals for upgraded attack aircraft after its attempt to buy AH-1 Cobra helicopters was thwarted
  • One proposal reportedly endorsed by the NAF involves Puma gunship upgrades and Su-25 fixed-wing ground attack aircraft
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has received a proposal from a defence company for the sale of six Puma gunship helicopters, four Sukhoi Su-25KM ground attack jets, and two upgraded Su-25UB trainers, a Nigerian Newspaper revealed on 5 February.

The Nation cited defence industry 'whistle-blowers' as saying the unidentified company had "reached an agreement with the NAF to substitute the initial order for Cobra AH-1V with alternative attack platforms". It said the NAF had recommended the deal to "the higher echelon of government within 16 days" of the proposal being submitted.

The US State Department confirmed in November 2014 that it had blocked a deal to sell Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria because of concerns about its military's human rights record and ability to operate the aircraft. The Nigerian press reported that the attack helicopters would have been ex-Israeli Air Force Cobras.

The Nation added that the deal was worth USD466.5 million and claimed this was far higher than it should be even though it noted it included shipping costs, personnel training, and the construction of supporting infrastructure, including new hangars for the aircraft.

A source told IHS Jane's that the aircraft package reported by the Nigerian newspaper is one of several proposals that foreign defence companies from France, Italy, Israel, Russia, and South Africa have submitted to Nigeria and that the deal was far from finalised.

Describing the leak to The Nation as "political," the source challenged the claim that the proposal was overpriced, saying the newspaper had not taken into consideration all aspects of the package.

The Nation also cited a letter from the NAF as saying that it would prefer to acquire new AgustaWestland AW129 Mangusta attack helicopters rather than the upgraded Pumas and Su-25s.

The only Pumas upgraded into gunships were Romanian-built IAR 330s that were converted into the SOCAT armed version with a chin-mounted 20 mm gun and Rafael Spike guided missiles with the help of the Israeli company Elbit Systems between 2000 and 2005.

Elbit Systems was also involved in the Su-25KM 'Scorpion' upgrade programme along with Georgia's Tblisi Aircraft Manufacturing company. This envisaged installing old Su-25s with enhanced weapons-delivery avionics and a new navigation system.

When asked to comment on whether it is involved in the proposal outlined by The Nation , Elbit Systems told IHS Jane's , "We don't comment on speculation and rumours".

Nigeria looking for more attack aircraft - IHS Jane's 360
 
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