Nigeria’s JF-17 Thunders are carrying out precision bombings with ASELPOD kit

A series of devastating air strikes against non-state elements in the Northeast part of Nigeria in the past few weeks have been steadily gaining media attention.

Pictures of charred remains of neutralized bandits and terrorists, suggesting precision airstrikes are being shared online.

In the most recent image, an area as large as a football field where terrorists were assembled for what is reported to be a meeting point was destroyed and burnt out.

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) operates several key aerial platforms capable of carrying out precision strikes such as the recently acquired Chinese UCAVs; CH-3A, CH-4s, and Wing Loong II (with the AR-1 laser-guided missile, FT-5 50kg bomb) others are the American-supplied A-29 Super Tucano (with the GBU-58 Paveway IIs and APKWS), Russian-made Mi-35M Hind (9М114 or 9M120 Ataka-V SACLOS radio-guided anti-tank missiles), and the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder.

The AR-1 missile is basically a Hellfire clone; it is equipped with either a GPS or a Laser guidance system. It is more or less designed for attacks against a wide range of targets like personnel, armoured vehicles, bunkers and infrastructure.

A careful look at one of the images of the destroyed area suggests that the APKWS, AR-1, Ataka-V, and FT-5 weapons warhead payload may be to small to inflict such a massive damage.

Besides, it is not yet certain that the Nigerian Air Force has received the weapons ordered along with the A-29 Super Tucanos. Nigeria’s A-29 deal is valued at $593 million and included Paveway II guided bombs, laser-guided APKWS rockets, 12.7 mm ammunition, unguided bombs and infrared sensors. A television documentary of the NAF air combat operations by TVC – a local television station did not reveal any Paveways or APKWS, although, it did show unguided rockets being used by the A-29 Super Tucanos.

As part of an order for 12 Super Tucano Counter-Insurgence (COIN) aircraft, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will also receive the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) is a combat-proven, semi-active laser-guided 70 mm air-to-surface rocket system designed and manufactured by BAE Systems in collaboration with the US Government. The weapon system is currently deployed by the US military forces.

To assist Nigeria, the United States through its Mission in Nigeria to improve its counter-terror operations in February 2021, under the US-Nigerian Air Ground Integration (AGI) joint program overseen by the Nigerian Ministry of Defence.

The US said at the time that the communications equipment will enhance air and artillery operations while adhering to the Law of Armed Conflict says the US Mission in Nigeria.

“It will enable the Nigerian military conduct airstrikes as well artillery bombardment without hitting civilians in the area of responsibility.”

Meanwhile, a separate photograph of Nigeria’s JF-17 Thunder fitted with a Turkish-designed ASELPOD electro-optical targeting equipment and what appears to be two Al-Battar 500 laser-guided bombs was recently published on social media.

Budget documents for FY2022 from the Nigerian government, last updated on 7 October, include NGN833.23 million in balance payments for procurement of three JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft with targeting pods (without stating the type.)

The ASELPOD advanced targeting pod was first successfully integrated to and tested on the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter in 2017.

By deploying the ASELPOD, NAF’s JF-17 is able to deploy laser-guided bombs (LGB) and, if equipped, laser-guided air-to-ground missiles (AGM).

Turkish Aselsan explains that the ASELPOD is a high performance electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system designed specifically for fighter aircrafts.

ASELPOD is designed as the new generation multi-sensor targeting pod for fighter aircraft consisting of high resolution 3rd generation FLIR.

ASELPOD allows the NAF’s JF-17 Thunder to be integrated with a variety of guided bombs including Pakistani -made Al-Battar 500, PSD-1, Durandal laser guided bombs, and U.S.-made GBU-12, 19, 16, 58 laser guided bombs, and Chinese LS-6 laser guided bombs.

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