ROTARY WING AIRCRAFT
The NAF fixed wing strike fleet is a double tragedy. The airframes are hopelessly obsolete, and the numbers in service are beyond ridiculous. Ten Alpha Jet trainers and five F-7Ni fighter/interceptors constitute %100 of the NAF strike fleet. Its most advanced combat aircraft, the F-7Ni is a 1950 design, basically a Chinese knockoff of the Mig-21.
Where the NAF fixed wing airframes have atrophied over the years with no end in sight, its rotary wing assets have blossomed over the years, to the point Nigeria now fields one of the continent’s most potent helicopter fleet, with the second biggest number of military grade helicopters in sub sahara Africa and the largest fleet of attack helicopters in Sub Sahara Africa…..and the NAF is midway through %60 of its acquisition program, with more deliveries expected in the coming months.
Helicopters play an integral role in Nigeria’s air campaign against Boko Haram because of their versatility. They enable troops to carry out a wide range of operations ranging from reconnaissance to casualty evacuations, close air support and insertion into enemy territory.
It’s fleet of MI-35 attack helicopters can best be described as an amoured personnel carrier with wings. The MI-35 helicopter can carry a complement of 12 fully armed troops for insertion while on a strike mission.
Let’s take a peak at what makes the rotary arm of the NAF such a lethal force.
The Nigerian Air Force is in the middle of a major fleet recapitalization program that includes the expansion of its combat helicopters fleet and is looking to weaponize its fleet of utility helicopters.
The “Hind” helicopters (Mi-35& Mi-24) in combination with weaponized utility helicopters are planned to be the main combat force of the Nigerian Air Force in years to come.
MI-35M HELICOPTER GUNSHIP
In a hypothetical war scenario between Nigeria and a regional adversary, the enemy’s most vital early warning radar stations will suddenly go off air in a surprise attack.
They will be destroyed in a hailstorm of rockets, missiles and heavy machine gun fire. All of which will come from an unseen swarm of ground hugging MI-35 helicopter gunships.
The Mi-35M is probably one of the most sophisticated peace of equipment in Africa available to frontline troops. It is capable of carrying out complex missions at anytime of the day in simple and adverse weather conditons.
Built by the Russians, the MI-35M is the fastest helicopter in the world with a top speed of 335 km/h.
Designed to hunt and destroy tanks, the MI-35M has significantly improved the army’s operational capability. It is the first and only helicopter in the NAF that has all weather day and night capability. It can detect and classify and priotize up to 256 potential targets in a matter of seconds.
The Mi-35 helicopter is a field commanders best asset. It’s mobile. It can pop up from behind trees, It can move out from the side of a hill laterally and do damage that is probably beyond the enemy’s comprehension. There is no helicopter on the continent that is quite so devastatingly armed.
It features a chin mounted turret with twin barrel Gsh-23V 23mm cannon that can serve over 4,000 rounds a minute.
The stub wings can carry a range of weapons system including anti-tank missiles, rocket pods/gun pods, or conformal fuel tanks.
The helicopter can be armed with up to eight 9М114 or 9M120 Ataka-V SACLOS radio guided anti-tank missiles, up to 80 ‘S-8’ 80mm unguided rockets and 20 ‘S-13’ type 122mm unguided aircraft rockets and 50 to 500 kilograms of bombs and incendiary warheads.
COUNTER MEASURE DEVICES
For defense it features a chaff and flare dispensation system. This is a countermeasure device. Whenever a missile is launched the pilot deploys flare and chaff, which has IR signature to break the lock from incoming missiles.
Besides night vision googles and adaptive lights, the MI-35 features a navigation and electronics indicator complex, consisting of an observation sight complex with a thermal guidance channel and laser range finder.
MI-24 (P &V variant)
Like the more advanced version, the MI-24 attack helicopter is intended for the destruction of armed vehicle, low speed air targets, enemy manpower, fire support of Nigerian troops, delivery of tactical troops etc. A radar warning system, IR hammer, chaff flare dispenser are also installed on the helicopter.
Depending on the mission profile the helicopter has more than ten armament versions. Standard armament includes a fixed gun unit with a two barrell 30mm machine gun, grenade launchers, Asturn V anti-tank missiles, 57mm rockets, 80mm rockets with different types of warheads.
AW109 Power attack helicopter
The Nigerian Air Force put big hopes on this reconnaissance-strike helicopter, which represents the further development of Nigeria’s rotary strike fleet.
Its the most advanced member of Augusta Westland family, based on a commercial off-the-shelf platform with military-specific modifications and is an operationally proven, affordable option Nigeria.
This was brought about by Nigeria’s search for a rapidly-deployable, multi-role light helicopter that “can be rapidly deployed in Hercules C-130s, and can insert, extract and provide fire support for small teams of NAF Special Forces undertaking tasks ranging from tactical observation through to counter-terrorism missions, or hostage recovery
MI-17sh Multi-role Helicopter
The Mil Mi-17 helicopter perform a range of tasks on the battlefield including reconnaissance, command and control, transportation of Special Forces troops for tactical insertion behind enemy line and materials, evacuation and the provision of force protection.
Armament includes 50 to 500 kilogram bombs, 60mm rockets on hydra rocket pods and machine gun.
Bell 412 Utility Helicopter
The Bell 412 helicopter is used by the NAF for offshore logistics support, maritime and coastal surveillance, emergency medical services and search and rescue.
In 2017 engineers at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Kaduna carried out installation of the BO-205 gun on the Bell 412 helicopters.
The helicopter is fitted with a nose mounted Electro Optical Device (EOD) enabling it to detect targets by day and night at significant range. Consequently the Bell 412 is currently employed in Nigeria’s northeast.
EC-135 Light Utility Helicopter
In March 2016 several EC-135 helicopters were handed over to the NAF by NNPC. In collaboration with Aero-contractors Nigeria Ltd, the helicopters were retrofitted with door mounted machine gun and military grade sensors.
The Agusta Westland light utility helicopter.
AW101 Augusta Westland Helicopter
In 2016 President Buhari ordered the release of two Augusta 101 VIP helicopters from the Presidential fleet (PAF) to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to support air operations in the northeast.