The Nigerian Air Force continues its annihilation of Boko Haram, releasing more than 16,000 tons of ordnance in 2016 alone, the most of any year in the eight year campaign to defeat Boko Haram.
Nigerian aircrafts flew approximately 3000 strike sorties employing thousands of ordnance. The majority of weapons released were for dynamic strikes, supporting Nigerian ground forces.
The Nigerian Air Force is equipped with different platforms and equipment to effectively carry out its statutory role in the air campaign against Boko Haram.
These are the aircraft’s leading the air war against Boko Haram.
Aircraft like “the Alpha Jet, L-39 trainers, Chengdu F-7N interceptors and Mi-35 helicopter gunships are breaking their backs and should be replaced with modern 4th generation aircrafts befitting for one of the most powerful country in Africa.
Fixed Wing Assets
The Nigerian Air Force has dropped over 7,000 weapons from February 2015 through to November 2017. Broken down by aircraft type, the Alpha light attack jet dropped 72 percent of the total; the F-7-Ni released 800 or and drones dropped 7 percent of the total ordnance.
Chengdu F-7N Air Guard.
- Air to air missiles : PL-9, PL-2, K-13
- Rocket : 55 mm rocket pod (12 rounds), 90 mm rocket pod (7 rounds)
- Bombs: 50 kg to 500 kg unguided bombs
The NAF most effective contribution to the Boko Haram war besides close air support for ground troops, is in the intrediction of enemy lines, and the F-7N interceptor has been the tip of the spear in the NAF interdiction of enemy lines.
September 2015 heralded the arrival of an additional six Chengdu F-7Ni Airguard interceptor, to bolster the ability to conduct quick kinetic strikes on enemy position.
The Sambisa forest is a vast wilderness encompassing 66,000 sqr km, that’s the size of Scotland, or twelve times the size of Lagos. This give Boko Haram a strategic advantage in moving men and material around. It would take a 600km per hour 40 minutes to traverse that distance and from bases South of Maiduguri.
The introduction of the F-7N interceptor changed the dynamics, it reduced that time to six minutes on afterburners, as a result, Boko Haram elements trying to reinforce and resupply were constantly pounded by F-7N battlefield air interdiction missions.
The NAF Aircraft Maintainance Unit is made up of fourteen active duty airmen. They are responsible for the capability of more than nine assigned F-7N fighters ability to fly.
‘Lion’s share of the work’
Dassault Donier Alpha jet.
As the work horse of the Boko Haram air campaign, the Alpha jets has flown the most combat missions and dropped the highest number of bombs, releasing more than one in five of the total amount of ordnance dropped.
No where was the importance of Nigeria’s Alpha jet more exemplified than in the opening stages of Operation Lafya Dole – the air and ground invasion of the Sambisa forest, the hitherto impregnable fortress of Boko Haram.
Seven thousand soldiers, drawn mostly from the 7th Infantry Division were deployed for the invasion of the Sambisa forest in December 2015. They would be supported by Alpha jets from the 73 Strike Group Yola, who bombed and rocketed Boko Haram positions for two days before the attack went in.
A Dassault Donier Alpha jet and its weapons suit displayed during an Air Force Exhibition in 2015.
The Alpha jet requires seven man hours of maintenance for every flight hour.
ROTARY AIR ASSETS.
Russian made Hind helicopter gunship, popularly known as the flying tank, is basically a flying Infantry fighting vehicle,(able to carry 12 fully equipped soldiers.) has released almost as many weapons as the Alpha jet, albeit in a rotary classificationEvery 100 rounds from the Gsh-30k autocannon is counted as a weapon.
Given its loiter capability, its armour and firepower its no wonder the Nigerian army turned to Hind attack helicopters as their close air support aircraft of choice. So effective were these helicopter, the Nigerian Army created an army aviation unit made up of Mi-24/35 helicopter gunships, independent of the Air Force.
In April 2017 the Nigerian Air Force took delivery of three new Mi-35 helicopter gunships with ten more scheduled for delivery in the coming months.
The Mi-17 is a military transport helicopter with secondary strike capability. It is used by the NAF to deploy Special forces troops and arms, fire support, convoy escort, patrol and search and rescue (SAR) missions.
The 301 Heavy Airlift Group is carries out airlift and logistical deployment for the NAF. The 301 HAG comprises of four wings – 221 Wing, Operational Conversion Unit, Operation Support Services Wing and Logistic Wing.
The role of the 221 Wing is to ensure timely and effective accomplishment of the airlift missions/tasks assigned to 301 HAG. The 221 Wing is manned by a Commanding Officer and comprises of staff officers, airmen/airwomen and civilians.
The aircrew disposition of 221 Wing includes Pilots, Navigators, Flight Engineers and Loadmasters.
Aero L-39 The Aero L-39 (Albatros) is a high performance trainer aircraft with secondary light ground attack capability. In February 2017 the Nigerian Air Force adapted all of itsvL-39ZA trainer aircraft for combat role. Now, the L-39 has been used exclusively for basic flying training, but after nealy a decade of combat operations, the Nigeria’s fleet of 16 Alpha jets and 9 F7N’s was stretched too thin to breaking point, leading to selective priotisation of air strikes.
To plug this dangerous gap in capability the NAF turned to its fleet of 26 L-39 jets. Like the Alpha jet, the Czech made L-39 Albatros, though a trainer aircraft, has light ground attack capability. This combat capability of the Albatrosewas never exploited before now,
Preparatory to the new role, the NAF successfully test-fired the weaponised aircraft fitted with rockets and canons at the NAF Air Range, Markurdi, Venue State. This feat marks another milestone in the drive by the current leadership of the NAF to achieve self-reliance through research and development.
Configuring the Albatros to carry weapons in low intensity conflicts has been very cost effective in times of austerity. In the unlikely event that all nineteen L-39 Albatros are destroyed, do not worry. There are twelve MB-339AN currently in storage with the NAF.
If the Nigerian Air Force is addicted to one thing, that will be ISR/ISTAR/ELINT platforms.
The principal function of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) component of command, control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) is to find, fix, and track both friendly and hostile forces.
In addition to sensing (collection), the function includes the assessment damage to hostile targets in an area of interest.
The ISR capabilities of the Nigerian Air Force is provided by a host of space based, airborne, and on the surface platforms.
The Allenia ATR-42 maritime patrol plane, the Super King 350 i is and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are used for intelligence, reconnaisance and surveillance to relay to other platforms and the Combined Air Operations Centre.
These aircrafts ISTAR aircrafts are often times dictating “strike or no strike ” calls based on what they see from the sensors on-board their aircraft. Such has been their effectiveness, NAF are asking for ISR assets to minimise collateral damage during airstrikes.
CH-3 Rainbow Attack Drone.
The CH-3 Rainbow meets the NAF requirements for a high-performance, weaponized, unmanned air vehicle systems for persistent surveillance and reconnaissance missions, in conjunction with missions for the suppression of enemy air defenses, strike missions, and electronic attack missions.