Nigeria has urged Turkey to accelerate the delivery of six T-129 ATAK helicopters, which were ordered in 2022. The helicopters are expected to play a key role in Nigeria’s counterinsurgency operations and other defense activities.
The Nigerian Air Chief, Air Marshal Hasan Abubakar, met with the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hidayet Bayraktar, on October 3, 2023, and emphasized the importance of timely delivery of the T-129 ATAK helicopters. Ambassador Bayraktar says Turkey is committed to enhancing the Nigerian Air Force’s manufacturing and maintenance capabilities, ensuring timely delivery of the T-129 ATAK helicopter, and providing effective maintenance.
Nigeria signed a contract for the six T-129 ATAK helicopters in July 2022. The helicopters were originally expected to be delivered by the end of the first quarter of 2023, but the delivery has been delayed.
The push for faster delivery comes as Nigeria faces a number of security challenges, including insurgency in the northeast and banditry in the northwest.
The T-129 ATAK is a twin-engine, tandem-seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in partnership with Leonardo S.p.A. It is based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform and is equipped with a variety of weapons, including rockets, missiles, and a cannon.
The T-129 ATAK is a highly maneuverable and versatile helicopter that is well-suited for the challenging conditions of Nigeria’s counterinsurgency operations. It is also capable of conducting a wide range of other missions, such as border patrol, search and rescue, and fire support.
The delivery of the T-129 ATAK helicopters will be a significant boost to the Nigerian Air Force. The helicopters will provide the NAF with enhanced aerial firepower and versatility, which will help it to more effectively carry out its missions.
A Defense Industry Cooperation between Nigeria and Turkey started in October 2021, during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Nigeria.
An earlier bilateral relations between the two countries took place on Monday 30 August 2021, when the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Hidaye Bayraktar paid a courtesy call on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya, at the Army Headquarters, Abuja.
In May 2023, more than 25 NAF personnel landed in Turkey for training on the use and maintenance of T-129 ATAK helicopters. The training is expected to take several months.
The acquisition of Turkish-made defense equipment is part of Nigeria’s efforts to modernize its military and improve its ability to respond to security threats.
The Turkish Government has assured the Federal Government of prompt delivery of T-129 helicopters as scheduled. It also promised to assist the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to develop the capacity to manufacture and maintain some defence equipment.
Bayraktar said Turkiye would ensure the sustenance of the TK-1 helicopters through an effective maintenance collaboration with the NAF. The ambassador said the Turkish Government was ready to strengthen existing defence collaboration with Nigeria through transfer of defence technology.
The NAF is also expected to receive a number of other Turkish-made defense equipment in the coming years, including Bayraktar TB2 drones and armored vehicles.