According to IHS Jane’s, Nigeria has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Pakistan for the purchase of an undisclosed number of JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighters. The contract is expected to be inked in November in Pakistan during the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) in Karachi.
Notes, Comments & Analysis:
Reports of a firm order emerged in January when a Nigerian newspaper, Punch, reported that $35 million U.S. had been allocated in the annual budget for three JF-17s and 10 Super Mushshak basic trainers for the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), the latter was officially finalized in June.
Negotiations between Nigeria and Pakistan likely began at the end of 2014, when the NAF had formally expressed interest in the JF-17. During IDEAS 2014, it was reported that the NAF could ultimately procure 25-40 JF-17s. While official numbers were not disclosed, it is likely that the NAF’s total order will not be as large given that it has numerous close air support (CAS) platforms in the acquisition pipeline, such as the Mi-35M assault helicopter and A-29 Super Tucano (which is still awaiting U.S. approval).
Considering that the main operational focus of the NAF at this time is counterinsurgency (COIN), it is likely that the NAF’s JF-17s will be configured for the strike role. Nigeria’s fruitful defence ties with China should enable it to procure a range of precision-guided munitions (PGM), such as the LT-series of laser-guided bombs. It is possible that Pakistan may seek to export domestically produced PGMs as well, such as the Global Industrial Defence Solutions (GIDS) Range Extension Kit (REK).
In its air defence configuration, the JF-17 would also imbue the NAF with relatively potent capabilities (especially if it can secure the SD-10 active radar-guided air-to-air missile). Among Nigeria’s immediate neighbours, only Chad possesses a modern fighter platform – i.e. the MiG-29 Fulcrum. However, it is not known how well these fighters are armed in terms of modern air-to-air munitions.