A Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Mil MI-35P helicopter crashed in Port Harcourt today, December 1, 2023, at approximately 7:45 am.
The unfortunate incident occurred shortly after the aircraft took off for an operation in Rivers State. Fortunately, all five crew members survived the crash with only minor injuries and are currently receiving medical attention at the NAF Medical Centre in Port Harcourt.
Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, the Director of Public Relations and Information for the Nigerian Air Force, who released a statement regarding the incident said, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Hasan Abubakar, is en route to Port Harcourt to assess the situation, ensure the well-being of the crew, and provide further directives. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the inherent dangers associated with military flying and the risks that NAF pilots and technicians face in their critical roles of defending the nation and deterring criminal elements from their illicit activities.
“Today’s crash is a sobering reminder of the perils our military personnel face in the line of duty,” said Gabkwet.
“We are thankful that the crew survived with minor injuries, and we are committed to providing them with the necessary care and support during this challenging time.”
The NAF has initiated an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash to determine the cause and prevent similar incidents in the future.
The NAF expanded its capabilities with the acquisition of six Mi-35P attack helicopters in 2000. Later, in 2008, the NAF received a mix of Mi-35P and Mi-24V attack helicopters from Ukraine, discreetly boosting its fleet’s strength.
The Mi-24V/Mi-35P helicopters operate primarily within the 97 & 115 Special Operations Group (SOG), playing a crucial role in supporting NAF operations across the nation. Since the delivery of the Mi-35M gunship in December 2016, it has become an indispensable asset, aiding in escort missions, quick responses, and close air support, particularly in the Northeast and Lake Chad Basin.
A total of five MI-35M gunships have been delivered and inducted into the Nigerian Air Force. But one of the aircraft crashed in January 2019 while providing close air support for troops of 145 Battalion in Damasak. Five servicemen on board the MI-35M died in the mishap.
Last two years, Nigerian Air Force planned to upgrade three of its older Mi-35 helicopters to the new Mi-35P Phoenix being offered by Rosoboronexport. A part payment of N3.3 billion ($7,970,915.91) was authorized by the Federal Government in the 2021 Appropriation Bill.
Russian Helicopters stressed, that It is providing huge potential for cooperation in servicing, modernizing and renovating the fleets.
Over the years, the Nigeria Air Force has lost some of its Mi-series helicopters to crashes. The NAF operates a fleet comprising approximately seven Mil Mi-24V/P ‘Hind-E/F’ and 16 Mi-35M/P ‘Hind-E/F’ gunships. These helicopters, known as SkyHawks within the NAF, have been instrumental in various operations, supporting troops and safeguarding national security.
Recently, it came to light that some of the older Mi-24V/Ps have been retired, one Mi-24V/P (NAF 537) was preserved as a gate guard at the 115 Special Operations Group airbase in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, serving as a testament to the NAF’s commitment to staying at the forefront of military technology.