On the Spotlight : Nigeria’s Helicopter Gunships

The Nigerian Air Force fixed winged strike assets are outdated and too few in numbers, Nigeria however makes up for this deficiency with its rotary winged assets. The NAF fields one of Africa’s  largest number of dedicated rotary winged platforms for specific battlefield requirements such as attack, transport, observation/reconnaissance, search & rescue, special forces insertion/extraction, replenishment etc.

Nigeria’s attack helicopter fleet.
Nigeria is gradually modernizing its air force, and its attack helicopter force is one of the areas being given priority.

Nigeria’s current emphasis on helicopter gunships is directly linked to battlefield experience garnered from a decade long battle against an unconventional enemy skilled in assymetric warfare – the Jihadi group, Boko Haram. As of this writing there are 53 military helicopters in the NAF inventory, with dozens more slated for delivery in the coming months.

In recent months newer, more modern Mi-35 Hind attack helicopter have being inducted into the NAF to augment the existing 18 Mi-24 Hind helicopters.

Mi-24 Hind Attack Helicopter (Flying tank)

The Mi-24 helicopter gunship is the spear of Nigeria’s attack helicopter force. Fondly called the flying tank because of its extensive amour protection, the Mi-24 is one of the most heavily armed attack helicopter in the world.


  • Cruising speed : 207 mph
  • Titanium rotor blades, able to resist impacts from 12.7 mm rounds.
  • Ballistic resistant windscreen and titanium armoured tub.
  • Capacity to carry 8 troops.
  • 450 km operational range.


  • GSh-30k autocannon.
  • Outer hardpoints can carry up to 250 kg.
  • Inner hardpoints can carry at least 500 kg.
  • GUV-8700 gunpod.
A NAF Mi-24 helicopter gunship.


An Mi-24 helicopter gunship assigned to the NAF Special Operations Group in Port Harcourt.
An Mi-24 V attack helicopter its in an open hanger. The Mi-24 “V” variant is distinguishable by its rotary gun turret.
An Mi-24 V assigned to the 75 Strike Group (75 STG) Yola, north east Nigeria.
NAF Mi-24 cockpit
NAF Mi-24 V attack helicopter outside an aircraft hanger with four unguided bombs on its l wingtip pylon.
Two 9M17 Phalanga attached to the wing-tip pylon.The outer hardpoints of the Mi-24 can carry up to 250 kg.
Two 9M17 Phalanga attached to the wing-tip pylon.The outer hardpoints of the Mi-24 can carry up to 250 kg.

Mi-35 M Attack Helicopter.

In 2016 the Nigeria Air Force acquired one squadron of the newer Mi-35M attack helicopters, of which three has been delivered and inducted into the NAF with 10 more slated for delivery in 2017.

This new multi role attack helicopter is a comprehensive modernisation of the Mi-24V. The Mi-35 M gives the NAF :

  • Combat use of guided and guided weapons in regular and challenging climate conditions.
  • Night attack capabilities at an altitude of 50 metres over land or water.

For round the clock combat use, the Mi-35M is equipped with the latest navigation and avionics suite with multifunction coloured displays, night vision target sight systems that includes night vission, thermal imager and TV channels, laser range finder and location finder.

A NAF Mi-35 M helicopter gunship.
New Mi-35 M helicopter gunship on displayed at an induction ceremony at the Tactical Air Command, Makurdi.
Weapons suites of the Mi-35 helicopter on display at the induction ceremony.
9K114 Shturm rocket launch tube and other munitions on display at an induction ceremony.

UB-32 S-5 rocket launchers and other munitions on display at an induction ceremony.
The rotary twin-barreled 23 mm autocannon
A NAF Mi-35 M carrying out night operations.
The cockpit of the new Mi-35 M features advanced avionic suites
9K114 Shturm rocket launch tube .
2.75 inch rocket pod.
57 mm unguided rocket on a Mi-35 M

MI-17 17sh Multi-role Helicopter.

The Mil Mi-17 sh is one of the NAF mikitary transport helicopters.

  • Crew. Three : two pilots and one engineer.
  • It can carry 28 troops.
  • Maximum speed : 280 km/h
  • Range : 800 km

The Mi-17 can virtually every armaments the Mi-24 can carry on six hardpoints including bombs and rockets.

A NAF Mi-17.
A NAF Mi-17 multi-role helicopter
An Mi-17 getting fuelled at an airbase somewhere in northeast Nigeria.
NAF Special Forces about to board an Mi-17 for insertion during combat operations against Boko Haram in Nigeria’s northeast.
An Mi-17 helicopter on an insertion mission.
The Mi-17 can carry 28 fully equipped soldiers.
Unguided rocket pod of the Mi-17
An Mi-17 let loose 30mm cannons and rockets during combat operations against Boko Haram.

Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma.

In 2014 Nigerian Air Force engineers succeeded in weaponizing its fleet of  seven AS332 Super Puma helicopter utility helicopters, re-configuring them with rocket pods and machine guns.

A NAF Super Puma.
Two NAF Super Puma helicopters lined up on an air base.
A Super Puma helicopter used by Air Force Special Forces fitted with 2.75 mm rocket pods.
The Super Puma helicopter is the helicopter of choice for the NAF Special Forces Regiment.
A rescued aged woman in need of medical attention is helped into a Super Puma to be flown to a military hospital.
Two NAF Special Forces personnel rapel down the roof of the Murtalla International Airport in Lagos during a hostage-rescue exercise.
The spacious interior of a Super Puma helicopter.
The cockpit of the Super Puma helicopter.
A Soldiers boards a Super Puma helicopter.
Super Puma Combat patrol.
Door gunner of a Super Puma helicopter mounts his machine gun during a combat patrol in the vast plains of the Sambisa forest.

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