The Nigerian Air Force has placed an order for six Leonardo AW109 helicopters, according to the Nigerian Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar said during a visit to Kano Air Base on 8 December,
where he examined the capabilities of the 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS) and 465 Nigerian Air Force Hospital (465 NAFH).
According to the Nigerian Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, he referred to the new helicopters as the AW109 Power gunships, hinting that they are the AW109M, the militarised version of the AW109E that can be armed with heavy machine gun pods and 70 mm rocket launchers.
Although, the delivery timeline for the new helicopter was not disclosed. The Nigerian Air Force already operates AW109 LUH (Light Utility Helicopter) used for combat operations against militants in northeast Nigeria, as well as for tactical training of future NAF helicopter pilots.
“The President Buhari administration has done much in repositioning the Nigerian Air Force,” Abubakar said. “We are also hoping to get 12 brand new aircraft from the United States of America. In addition, we are also hoping to get six brand new helicopter gunships from Italy. So, I think from what we have seen in terms of support, every officer, airman and airwoman in the Nigerian Air Force has every reason to put in his or her best in order to ensure that Nigeria is secure,” the CAS said.
In the 2018 Federal Appropriation Bill that was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari on 20 June, the government has set aside nearly N6 billion ($19 million) for the procurement of two new AW109 helicopters from Leonardo Helicopters. These will join the AW109 LUHs already in service with the Nigerian Air Force and the A109Es in service with the Nigerian Navy. Although on July 2017, a NAF Agusta 109 suffered a mishap when it crash landed in a lake during combat operations.
In addition to twelve new six AW109 helicopters from Italy’s Leonardo, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will be taking delivery of Super Tucanos from the United States,
Abubakar also inspected progress on the reactivation of three L-39ZA aircraft at the 403 FTS, which will be used for training as well as counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram militants.
NAF Fleet revitalization
Over the years, the Nigerian Air Force is revitalizing its fleet through multiple acquisitions in order to bolster it’s counter terrorism operations. On 30 April 2018, the Nigerian Air Force received two new Mi-35M helicopter, which are part of a haul of twelve brand new units ordered from Russian Helicopters in September 2015.
The NAF also inducted two Bell 412 combat utility helicopters which was donated by the Rivers state government to the NAF on 5 November 2017.