THE Federal Government procured the twelve new A-29 Super Tucano jets at a whopping $500 million, making it the highest single arms purchase in sub-Saharan Africa, the US Department of Defence has disclosed.
Six of the jets have been delivered and ‘secretly’ inducted into the Nigerian Air Force.
The remaining batch of six will be delivered by the end of the year.
Journalists were barred from covering the induction ceremony hosted by the Minister of Defence Major General Salihi Magashi (rtd) in Abuja, Tuesday.
The Commander, U.S Air Forces Europe-Africa Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian said the Super Tucanos were the impetus for the significant deepening of training and professional relationships.
He noted that “the Nigerian Air Force is one of our key partners that play a critical role in furthering regional security and stability.
“This ceremony symbolises the strength of our unique partnership and underscores the value of training and working together.”
According to him, the precision targeting, air-to-ground integration, and human rights training are all included in the partnership between the U.S. and Nigeria.
Harrigian stated the aircraft will assist the Nigerian Air Force in their fight against violent extremist organisations including the Islamic State West Africa Province.
He explained that the joint structure of air-to-ground integration also supports Nigerian Army and Navy operations.
According to him: “Nigeria purchased the A-29s through the Foreign Military Sales program, which follows the Department of Defense’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.”
Harrigian and US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard speaking on the capabilities of the aircraft, said the A-29 can perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and precision air-to-ground strikes, strengthening Nigeria’s ability to fight terrorism.
“The A-29 is a prime tool to help Nigeria combat violent extremism and is vital to sustaining deterrence.
“The total package deal—aircrew and maintainer training, precision-guided weapon delivery, and more—highlights our enduring partnership with the Nigerian Air Force and our commitment to enabling their successes where we can,” Harrigian stated.
He said a total of 64 pilots and maintainers from the Nigerian Air Force were trained to U.S. standards with the U.S. Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Base in Georgia, USA.
He said the training also emphasised the Law of Armed Conflict and civilian casualty mitigation, which are fundamental principles of the Nigerian military’s professional education and training.
He disclosed that as part of the programme, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing $36.1M in infrastructure support to the A-29s’ home base, Kainji Air Base, including a 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.
He added that the USACE has also stationed a project engineer at Kainji to provide ongoing maintenance and assistance.
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