As the Nigerian Army works to modernize the service’s aviation portfolio, officials charged with the effort will have to integrate advanced training and unmanned operations in various ways across the future fleet — although fully realizing the capability will have to be a journey.
The Nigerian Army is currently setting up its aviation branch, from modernized manned helicopters like the Cayuse Warrior Scout helicopter, Bell UH-1D utility helicopter, the fixed-wing aircraft like the MF-212 light aircraft, to fully autonomous platforms such as the Textron Aerosonde UAS, Ziyan UAS Blowfish thus, giving pilots greater standoff from enemy threats.
The MF 212 aircraft and Bell UH-1D helicopters may be the vanguard of a long list of aviation platforms the army will acquire which include drones and attack helicopters. Also, a newly formed For now, UAV command will operate alongside the Nigerian Air Force Combat Reconnaissance Group (203 CRG) in Gombe state.
The Nigerian Army blamed the lack of air power as the reason for the prolonged battle with the Boko Haram insurgents. The service also opined that it needs its own aerial domain capability to quickly wrap up the long-drawn military campaign.
The service already has efforts underway to help realize its vision for heliborne and autonomous operations in the air domain.
Last week, the Nigerian Army (NA) expressed the resolve to partner reputable stakeholders in the Defence and Security Industry for the procurement of requisite equipment and platforms, that would enhance its operational effectiveness.
The Director Procurement, Major General Adeyinka Adereti revealed on Tuesday 14 November 2023, during the Army Headquarters Fourth Quarter 2023 Procurement Seminar that global procurement processes have taken a new turn due to changes in the international system and the prevailing security climate.
The Nigerian Army’s aviation branch is reaching a critical inflection point where it will need to determine what new piloted and unmanned vertical lift platforms along with armament hardware it will adopt for its new capability.
The Federal Government of Nigeria in support of the operationalization of Nigerian Army Aviation approved the acquisition of the initial 12 MD 530F Cayuse Attack Helicopters that will actualize the operationalization of the Nigerian Army (NA) Aviation to effectively tackle security challenges bedeviling the country.
The acquisition of the new attack helicopters is part of ongoing efforts by the Federal Government to boost the operational capabilities of the Army Aviation to appropriately respond to contemporary and emerging security threats.
General Lagbaja further revealed that since 2014, the Nigerian Army has made commendable progress in training pilots, aircraft engineers, technicians, and other ground support crews, adding that the Nigerian Army understands the highly technical nature of the aviation business and the need to be appropriately mentored, hence its international collaborations and submission of its nascent aviation outfit to the mentoring of the Nigerian Air Force, as the Service does not have the luxury of making mistakes when it can learn from other experienced aviation outfits.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja made this disclosure on Tuesday 26 September 2023, while declaring open the Nigerian Army Aviation maiden seminar on Aviation Security Awareness at the Army Headquarters Command Officers’ Mess 1, Abuja.
In his remarks at the 3 Day Seminar with the theme: “Enhancing the Capacity of the Nigerian Army Aviation towards Achieving Constitutional Responsibilities in a Joint Environment”, the COAS expressed gratitude to the Federal Government under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for buying into the aspiration of the Nigerian Army Aviation and committing itself to making history.
The Army Chief noted that the Nigerian Army Aviation is being proactive by organising the first Nigerian Army Aviation Seminar, which is in line with his Command Philosophy of “Transforming the Nigerian Army into a Well-trained, Equipped and Highly Motivated Force towards achieving its Constitutional Responsibilities within a Joint Environment.” He noted that the seminar will serve as a veritable platform to deliberate on critical issues and share invaluable insights regarding the future of the Nigerian Army Aviation.
Highlighting the critical role of NA aviation, the Army Chief stated that the outfit is set up to improve the agility, responsiveness, and efficacy of the ground troops, while contributing to the overall operational success of joint and coalition forces, support those on the ground and focus on tactical and operational engagements, maintaining that the Air Force undertakes more complex tasks to achieve strategic effects.
Current Nigerian Army aviation capabilities include light transport and utility and unmanned systems in form of two Bell 412EP, three Eurocopter EC135 and a number of Textron Aerosonde MK4.7, Ziyan Blowfish UAS, and other DJI-type commercial-grade drones sourced from the civilian market.
While future roles may include area security, tactical reconnaissance, convoy escort, light transport, fire support, and utility.
As the Army deepens its cooperation allies and partners, it has increasingly indicated interests in learning from Army aviators.
Besides procurement, the future of the Nigerian Army aviation will require soldiers to increase realistic training that effectively mimics hostile environments.
As the force shifts from counterinsurgency operations to large-scale combat operations, flexibility will be the Nigerian Army aviation’s greatest strength. Army aviators will applying hard-earned lessons from 10 years of operations in Nigeria’s northeastern theatre.
The Nigerian Army has partnered with the French Army light aviation French Army Light Aviation (French: Aviation légère de l’armée de Terre, ALAT).
In 2021 the Adjutant General of California National Guard, Maj.-Gen. David Baldwin, pledged to support the Nigerian Army to actualise the establishment of its aviation unit. Baldwin made the pledge when he led his team on courtesy visit to Army Headquarters.
Earlier last year, the Nigerian Army signed a contract with HAL for Phase-II flying training on Chetak Helicopter for six officers of the newly formed Nigerian Army Aviation.
India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) signed a contract with the Nigerian Army to train six officers for basic helicopter flying training phase-I at the Rotary Wing Academy (RWA), Bengaluru.