The Nigerian Air Force has taken delivery of the first three JF-17 Thunder from Pakistan. The JF-17 Thunder fighter jet arrived the NAF Tactical Air Command (TAC), Makurdi in the late hours of Sunday March 21.
The three aircraft were delivered aboard a Pakistani Ilyushin Il-78 Midas strategic transport aircraft, in a partially disassembled form, with their wings removed. A video which was published on social media shows Nigerian Air Force and Pakistani technical personnel offloading the aircraft.
The three JF-17 Thunder multirole fighter jet were initially expected to arrive on or before November 2020, according a report by the former Nigerian Chief of Air Staff, (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar during the graduation ceremony of 2,079 new recruits to boost internal operations. However, they were delayed following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September 2016, at the 9th African Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, Nigeria and Pakistan’s Export Promotion Organization (DEPO) signed a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of the JF-17 “Thunder” fighter, making it the first African Air Force to procure the aircraft. The Nigerian Air Force is expected to buy at least one or two squadrons JF-17 fighter after an initial order for three units is delivered.
The JF-17 Thunder evolved out of the MiG-21, and is a lightweight, single-engine, multirole combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and China’s state-owned Chengdu Aircraft Corp. The jet is equipped with a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel automatic cannon and can also be armed with various air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.
Although, the contract did not specify the exact variant of the JF-17 Thunder soon to be delivered, however, it is expected to be the JF-17 Block II which has been in development since 2013.
The new JF-17 Thunder aircraft will replace Nigeria’s aging fleet of less than ten Chengdu F-7 AirGuard which has suffered attrition since its acquisition in 2009.