By Murtala Abdullahi
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is expecting three Multirole Joint Fighter 17 (JF-17 ) jets manufactured jointly by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation of China and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex of Pakistan, HumAngle has learnt.
The NAF JF-17 jets were seen on display on Wednesday during the formal induction of Pakistani Air Force dual-seat JF-17 block II and launch of Block-III production.
The delivery and induction of the fourth generation fighter jets will make them the most advanced in the NAF inventory since the decommissioning of NAF Anglo-French SEPECAT Jaguar jets in the early 1990s.
The 18 Jaguar jets delivered in the 1980s had a short service life in NAF due to technical and maintenance support issues.
The NAF management has set up accommodation for the Pakistani pilots and technicians who would support the JF-17 aircraft during the first year of their operations in Nigeria, sources told HumAngle.
The aircraft will complement the main workhorse of NAF fighter jet fleet, the two variants of the Franco-German built light attack and advanced trainer Alpha jets.
The JF-17 jets will likely be the future replacement for the remaining nine F-7NI jets, which were acquired in the early 2000s from Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.
In September, 2018, two jets, FT-7Ni and F-7Ni, collided during Independence Day air display rehearsal and the F-7Ni’s with mother base in Makurdi are temporarily out of service for in-depth overhaul and maintenance.
In recent years, the air force has upgraded and expanded the use of its L-39ZA Albatross based at 403 Flying Training School, Kano, to fill the ground attack capability gap in the multiple theatres of military operations across the country.
On Dec. 24, another reactivated L-39ZA was inducted alongside a new MI-171E helicopter. Three other Albatros are currently undergoing general overhaul and avionics upgrade at the Aero Vodochody Facility in Prague (Czech) and are expected to return to the country next year.
The NAF is also expecting the arrival of 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft from the United States of America, with the first batch of aircraft expected in Kainji Airbase at the end of the Second Quarter of 2021.
The A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is expected to enhance NAF’s ability to conduct close air support, border patrol and disaster assessment missions.
The 2021 budget of NAF includes balance payment for the JF-7 aircraft, spares and Aselpod targeting pod.
It is still unclear if or when the air force will make future orders for the JF-17 and what variant of the aircraft will be purchased.
Over the past few years, NAF has placed priority on combat aircraft to support current mission requirements and funding availability. This has resulted in little or no disclosures on potential air superiority, long-range fighter jet acquisition.
The Nigerian Air Force was legally established by an Act of Parliament in 1964 and received its first combat aircraft in 1967 – several Soviet MiG-17s, L-29, MiG-15UTIs and Il-28 bombers deployed to support ground operations during the Nigerian Civil War.