The Nigerian Air Force officially inducted the first batch of Super Tucano light attack aircraft in a ceremony on August 31.
Attended by US defense department officials, the ceremony took place a little over a month after the first six aircraft arrived from the United States on July 22.
“The Nigerian Air Force is one of our key partners that plays a critical role in furthering regional security and stability,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander. “This ceremony symbolizes the strength of our unique partnership and underscores the value of training and working together.”
Nigeria purchased the A-29s through the Foreign Military Sales program, which follows the Pentagon’s “total package approach” model and includes spare parts for several years of operation, contract logistics support, munitions, and a multi-year construction project to improve Kainji Air Base infrastructure. The total sale is valued at almost $500 million, making it the largest FMS program in sub-Saharan Africa.
The second batch of six Super Tucano is scheduled to arrive in Nigeria by the end of 2021.
The aircraft will assist the Nigerian Air Force in their fight against violent extremist organizations including the Islamic State West Africa Province. The joint structure of air-to-ground integration also supports Nigerian Army and Navy operations.
Harrigian and US Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard spoke to media about how this platform will help improve Nigerian Air Force capabilities, as well as increase training and integration opportunities between Nigerian and US troops. The A-29 can perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and precision air-to-ground strikes, strengthening Nigeria’s ability to fight terrorism.
A total of 64 pilots and maintainers from the Nigerian Air Force trained to U.S. standards with the US Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Base in Georgia, USA. Training also emphasized the Law of Armed Conflict and civilian casualty mitigation, which are fundamental principles of the Nigerian military’s professional education and training.
As part of the program, the US Army Corps of Engineers is providing $36.1 million in infrastructure support to the A-29s’ home base, Kainji Air Base, including earth-covered magazines and aircraft sunshades, a new airfield hot cargo pad, perimeter and security fencing, airfield lights, and various airfield apron, parking, hangar, and entry control point enhancements.
The infrastructure package also includes a flight annex wing building for simulator training as well as munitions assembly and storage and small arms storage. USACE has also stationed a project engineer at Kainji to provide ongoing maintenance and assistance.
The Super Tucanos are being delivered by the Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) duo from their Jacksonville, Florida, and Centennial, Colorado, facilities.
Nigeria’s first A-29 completed its inaugural flight at the production facility in Jacksonville, Florida in April 2020, several months before the West African state began work on new facilities that will support the Super Tucano fleet.
Nigeria became the 14th international customer of the A-29 after placing an order in 2018.