One of the most visible aspect of the strength of the Nigerian Army is its artillery brigades. Nigeria has one of the largest and most potent artillery force on the continent, with more artillery guns that the combined armies of all of West and East Africa combined. The reason for this? A weak air force . The Nigerian army have never really counted on having air superiority over the battlefield. It has a diverse array of artillery guns and howitzer, as well as long-range rocket systems.
That’s why Nigerian army units are quick to call down heavy artillery bombardments when the going got tough. Each combat unit is augmented with towed artillery and mortar units, while heavy self-propelled artillery guns are prepositioned in advance. This underscores how liberal employment of relatively fast-reacting and accurate artillery fires is part of Nigeria’s way of war.
Before Boko Haram, the Nigerian military doctrine placed greater emphasis on massive artillery bombardments, and has never been deeply unconcerned with the issue of collateral damage, as demonstrated by the methodical way Nigerian artillery flattened an entire town in after a commander was killed by rebel snipers in Liberia during the ECOMOG intervention.
Recently, the war against Boko Haram illustrated some of these principles, as Nigerian self-propelled rockets and howitzer artillery fired from positions in Maiduguri 20 km deep into the Sambisa and inflicted hundreds of casualties on Boko Haram fighters. The army also deployed tactical artillery units to Calabar in when Cameroonian gendarmes invaded Danare community in February 2018. The Army does not joke with its artillery units.
That’s why the fiscal 2018/2019 military budget reveals a %90 increase in spending on artillery systems, and especially their munitions stocks of 155-millimeter artillery shells and 22 millimeter rockets, which have been depleted for years. Let’s have a look at Nigerian artillery systems in operation.
Nigeria’s artillery fleet includes :
350 towered artillery/howitzers
If the Nigerian Air Force decides to strike a well defended site, it can call on the army’s big guns as a strategy to enable Nigerian airpower by destroying enemy air defenses with saturated surface-to-surface strikes.
Systems like the SA-6 Grail pose a major threat to Nigeria’s obsolete warplanes, and although it possible to dismantle an integrated air defense network with air strikes, you definitely can’t do that with the Alpha jet or F-7Ni fighter. Therefore, Nigeria’s long-range artillery could both pick up the slack by hitting critical targets behind enemy lines, destroying those air defenses so that air support can reach the battlefield.
Among Nigeria’s most formidable artillery pieces are its 155mm self-propelled howitzers and its 122mm rocket artillery. The Palmaria can lob a fifty-eight calibre artillery cannon 25 miles down range into enemy territory with deadly accuracy. It’s autoloader mechanism means that it can carry out sustained bombardments of six to ten rounds per minute.
25 Palmaria 155mm self-propelled howitzer.
24 FH77 Haubits 155mm self-propelled artillery.
30 BM-21 Grad Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.
The Army likewise is looking to extend the reach of its multiple-rocket-launcher systems by augmenting its fleet of 30 BM-21 Grad MLRS with the longer range RM-70 MLRS.
Seven RM-70 MLRS
The lighter RM-70 systems have proven especially successful combating Boko Haram in the northeast. In addition to its standard 122mm shells, its rocket assisted projectiles (with a range of forty-five miles) can deliver accurate strikes at lower cost than sending an Alpha jet to do the job. The Navy is even toying with the idea of deploying RM-70 systems on the decks of ships for fire support.