The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) formally inducted its first two (of 12) new-built Mi-35M assault helicopters, which it received earlier in January from Russian Helicopters.
Nigeria ordered the Mi-35Ms in September 2015 as part of a comprehensive modernization plan which also includes the procurement of three JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and 12 Embraer/Sierra Nevada Super Tucano light combat aircraft.
The NAF ordered the Mi-35 to bolster its close air support (CAS) capabilities, which it is employing in tis counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign in northeast Nigeria. However, the NAF also noted its growing role in foreign peacekeeping operations (e.g. in Gambia) as another driving force of its modernization efforts.
The Mi-35M is the latest version of the Mil Mi-24 Hind, boasting all weather as well as day and night capabilities. It can deploy unguided and laser-guided rockets, anti-tank guided missiles, and 23 mm guns. In addition, the Mi-35M can also ferry up to eight paratroopers in its cabin. It has an internal payload of 1,500 kg and, via a sling, an external payload of 2,400 kg.
The NAF also celebrated the raising of its new Special Operations Command. It also awarded six pilots with wings, two of whom trained at the King Hussain Air College in Jordan. The remaining four trained at the International Helicopter Flying School in Enugu.