The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has officially inducted into service the first six of 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft on order from the United States. US Department of Defence officials took part in the ceremony in Abuja on 31 August along with Nigerian Minister of Defence Bashir Salihi Magashi.
The first six Super Tucanos arrived in Nigeria on 22 July as part of a nearly $500 million Foreign Military Sale (FMS), with the aircraft manufactured by Brazil’s Embraer and the United States’ Sierra Nevada Corporation. The remaining six will be delivered later this year.
The US Embassy pointed out that the Nigerian Super Tucano deal is the largest FMS programme in sub-Saharan Africa. It includes spare parts for several years of operation, contract logistics support, munitions, and a multi-year construction project to improve Kainji Air Base infrastructure.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is providing $36.1 million in infrastructure support to the A-29s’ home base, Kainji Air Base, including earth-covered magazines and aircraft sunshades, a new airfield hot cargo pad, perimeter and security fencing, airfield lights, and various airfield apron, parking, hangar, and entry control point enhancements.
The infrastructure package also includes a flight annex wing building for simulator training as well as munitions assembly and storage and small arms storage. USACE has also stationed a project engineer at Kainji to provide ongoing maintenance and assistance.
A total of 64 pilots and maintainers from the Nigerian Air Force trained to US standards with the US Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Base in Georgia, USA. Training also emphasized the Law of Armed Conflict and civilian casualty mitigation, which are fundamental principles of the Nigerian military’s professional education and training, the US Embassy said.
Precision targeting, air-to-ground integration, and human rights training are all included in the partnership between the US and Nigeria, the US Embassy emphasised, following previous criticism of the Nigerian military’s human rights record in combating Boko Haram terrorists.
The Super Tucanos will assist the Nigerian Air Force in their fight against violent extremist organizations including the Islamic State West Africa Province. The joint structure of air-to-ground integration also supports Nigerian Army and Navy operations.
“The Nigerian Air Force is one of our key partners that plays a critical role in furthering regional security and stability,” said General Jeff Harrigian, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander. “This ceremony symbolizes the strength of our unique partnership and underscores the value of training and working together.”
“The A-29 is a prime tool to help Nigeria combat violent extremism and is vital to sustained deterrence,” Harrigian said. “The total package deal—aircrew and maintainer training, precision-guided weapon delivery, and more—highlights our enduring partnership with the Nigerian Air Force and our commitment to enabling their successes where we can.”
The Super Tucano induction ceremony is the latest of multiple significant engagements between US Africa Command, its components, and Nigerian counterparts, the US Embassy said. Other recent engagements include a visit by the US Navy’s Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) in August 2021 and US Army Special Forces training with the Nigeria Navy Special Boat Service in July 2021.
US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, US Africa Command, visited Nigeria in February 2021, where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff Ibrahim Gambari, Minister of Defence Magashi, and Chief of Defence Staff General Leo Irabor.