The Military Balance 2018 : Air Power.

There is no military balance in Sub Sahara Africa in the classic sense of the term. Although geopolitical rivalries and tensions persist between South Africa and Nigeria , neither country can carry out and sustain military operations over such vast distances, hence its safe to say the prospects of such conflicts is virtually impossible.

Both countries have had border clashes in the past, and low-level incidents continue on the borders of both countries. But none of these clashes has approached the point of serious conflict since these countries achieved independence.

Although both countries have sent symbolic military forces in regional peacekeeping roles, these commitments have had no real military significance in a strategic level.

Hence today the military balance in sub- sahara Africa consists largely of efforts to create forces that can maintain internal security, defend national borders, and enhance national prestige. Yet countries like Nigeria is adapting to the threats posed by terrorism and asymmetric warfare.

This comprehensive analysis examines the current force of two of Africa’s richest and most powerful countries – Nigeria and South Africa. We analyse their armies, navies, air forces, and paramilitary and security forces.



Strenght : Advanced 4th generation fighters.

Deficiency : Attack helicopters.

South Africa has the most technically advanced airforce in Sub Sahara Africa and has a thriving domestic arms industry, but its small size continues to be an impediment

Frontline fighter : Gripen multi-role fighter.



Number in service : 17.

Seventeen Gripen fighters is insufficient number protect South Africa’s airspace. To overcome this shortfall, the SAAF weaponized its Hawk Mk 120 trainers for secondary light attack missions.

Light attack : BAE Hawk Trainer/light attack.


Number in Service : 23

Reconnaissance /Patrol : SAR/maritime patrol plane :

Cessna 208


Douglas DC-3 Electronic Warfare Aircraft


Combat Helicopters : Denel Rooivalk attack helicopter.

Number in service : 12

Augusta Westland Recce/Utility

Radar/ Air Defence.

Comprehensive Early Warning air defense radar coverage is prohibitively very expensive. To mitigate this lack of low-level radar coverage, the SAAF operates a mix of four ESR220 Thutlwa and Plessey Tactical Mobile Radar (TMR) systems. These systems can cover altitudes below 700 metres.





Strength : Atttack Helicopters and Unmanned Systems.

Weakness : Combat aircraft and Air Defense.

The Nigerian Air Force is the premier air power in West Africa. It is however bedevilled by corruption and size and is no where near the capability of the South African Air Force.

Current frontline fighter : F-7Ni fighter



Number in service : 12 (two lost to crash)

Unlike the Gripen fighter which can fight its way to a target, release its ordnance and fight its way back, the F-7Ni fighter is primarily a high-speed interceptor but with secondary ground attack capabilities. Its limited numbers seriously degrades its effectiveness on a strategic level. To overcome this shortfall, the NAF has retrofitted Alpha and L-39 trainers with weapons for light attack missions.

Light attack : Dassault Donnier Alpha Trainer/light attack jet.



Number in Service : 18

Aero L-39 Trainer / light attack



Number in Service : 17

Attack Drone : CH-3H Rainbow


2018-03-02 10.21.49


Number in service : 4

Reconnaissance /Patrol : ATR-42 Maritime Patrol Plane

2018-02-25 01.02.36

Number in Service : 2

Super King Air 350i ELINT plane.

Number in Service : 2

Combat Helicopters

Mi-24 hind helicopter gunship

Number in service : 18

Mi-35 M Hind helicopter gunship


Number in Service : 12

Augusta Westland Recce/Utility


Early warning Radar system is virtually non-existent in Nigeria. However on a Tactical level Nigeria operates six Skyguard Mobile Radar System. The system can follow up to 20 targets, with a simultaneous lock on of 6 of them and the capability to fire against them with 4 Roland missiles or the Typ-90 AAG or whichever platform it’s connected to.




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