According to the Nigerian news outlet Punch, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is in the process of readying itself for its first batch of JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighters and Super Mushshak basic flight trainers from Pakistan.
The announcement was reportedly made by Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, the Director of Public Relations and Information of the NAF.
Captain Famuyiwa also noted that the NAF will also induct the EMB-314 Super Tucano counterinsurgency (COIN) attack aircraft, pending U.S. approval. The NAF will also induct Russian Mi-35 assault helicopters.
Comment and Analysis
News of Nigeria buying the JF-17 emerged at the beginning of this year. The Nigerian news outlet Punch reported that $25 million U.S. was allocated in the Nigerian budget for three JF-17s. If the statement from Captain Famuyiwa is accurate, then this would be the first official acknowledgment of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) acquiring the JF-17 (and Super Mushshak).
Currently, the NAF operates 10 Chengdu F-7NI, a Chinese-built variation of the Russian MiG-21. These are supported by eight Dassault Alpha Jets, which are used as training and light attack aircraft. With the JF-17, Nigeria would come into possession of a platform capable of precision-strike. Given Nigeria’s existing defence ties with China, the NAF may procure the WMD-7 targeting pod alongside the LT and LS-series of laser and INS/GPS-guided bombs, respectively.
For Pakistan, there are a lot of opportunities for growth, especially within the NAF. Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) will be counted upon to service and support the NAF’s JF-17s, potentially through the life of the aircraft’s service in Nigeria. It is likely that Nigeria will acquire additional JF-17s in the coming years.
There is nothing to stop the NAF from configuring, customizing and equipping its JF-17s according to its requirements and preferences. There is an opportunity for other vendors, particularly South Africa’s Denel Dynamics, which could provide the NAF with a range of precision-guided air-to-ground munitions (such as the Umbani/al-Tariq and Raptor).
In addition to training NAF pilots to operate the JF-17, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s facilities could also be used to provide NAF training in modern air warfare. For example, the forthcoming Airpower Centre of Excellence (ACE) will be an institution devoted to transferring the experience and expertise the PAF had accrued from its own counterinsurgency experience to personnel from the PAF and friendly states. Nigeria could potentially benefit from ACE (and contribute to it with its own experience).