January 6 2018
Thirteen drones are launched from a location thirty miles from Syrian a military base. Their target, a Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Latakia, Syria and Tartus naval base.
Guided by GPS, ten drones attacked Hmeimim while another three attacked Tartus. Luckily for the Russians all thirteen were downed by Russia’s air defense forces before they could fo any damage. with Russian electronic warfare forces reportedly taking control of six of the drones and crashing them into the ground. Seven others were shot down by the Pantsir-S mobile air defense system.
This development should keep the Nigerian military up at night. If such an attack had happened in Nigeria, what are the chances of all thirteen drones getting shot down?
Terrorist organisations are evolving and we must keep pace with current and future threat scenario’s. If ISIS can now launch attacks thirty miles out with attack drones with the capability to mass produce them, there is no guarantee that such capabilities will not be extended to its West African affiliate-Boko Haram.
The widespread adoption of drones by terrorist groups for reconnaissance purposes and as improvised attack platforms carrying grenades or explosive charges will give terrorists standoff attack capabilities over hundreds of kilometres.
To counter such threats, the Nigerian army needs fast-reacting short-range air defense systems, or SHORAD and better yet, they need them in a package that can move with frontline units on the battlefield. Interceptor aircrafts are impractical to employ against large numbers of tiny systems that might be dramatically cheaper than the missiles used to destroy them.
The Roland air defense system and ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” anti aircraft gun are perfectly suited against such small, low-flying threats in time, particularly if they are targeting front line troops. But the Nigerian army’s SHORAD force is too small to make any Strategic impact. There are 16 Roland SAM systems and about 30 ZSU-23-4 in service.
Nigerian Army Roland Tactical SHORAD.
Nigerian army ZSU-23-4 SHILKA
The Strela -2 MANPAD. 100 in service. Not enough.
The Blowpipe missile proved to be an ineffective anti-aircraft weapons system in the Falklands and was subsequently retired from service with the British army
This has left the Chinese built Type 90 35mm anti-aircraft cannon and the ex-Soviet ZSU-23-2 as the only mobile SHORADS system maintained by the Nigerian army in large enough numbers, with 650 in service. However the 33mm Type 90 and 23 mm ZSU towed anti aircraft auto-cannons is an old design and vulnerable because of its limited range and altitude.
Type 90 35mm AAG
Its high time the Nigerian army takes its air defence serious. As a short-term measure for force protection the Nigerian army should a battalion strength MANPAD team for its light, mechanized and motorized infantry battalions. Presumably, many of them will have to dismount from their vehicles to fire. It’s cost-effective and requires less infrastructure to maintain.