WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Because Nigeria has been fighting the Islamist insurgency in the northeast with aging equipment, leading to high soldier attrition and flagging morale. Soldiers and the Nigerian public believe more sophisticated military hardware will give the military enormous advantage and could be key in defeating the Islamists.
News reports say the United States Department of Defense has placed a $329 million contract with the Sierra Nevada Corporation to manufacture 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft for the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), with the order expected to be completed in May 2024.
This information is generating intense excitement and debate among Nigerians, who insist that the country’s military cannot wait for six years to receive equipment that it intends to deploy against an increasingly aggressive Islamist enemy.
When the Nigerian government announced its payment for the aircrafts in February, the news generated much furore, particularly among legislators who have incessantly bickered with the presidency over sundry issues of governance, including the presidency’s alleged usurpation of the legislative powers of appropriation.
At the time, the government explained that a small window of opportunity for the acquisition of the equipment had opened and it was expedient for the government to respond quickly so as not to lose the opportunity. The previous government, led by Goodluck Jonathan, had applied to purchase the aircrafts, but were refused the opportunity by the US government.
The Nigerian government claimed it paid the US government $496 million for the 12 Super Tucano fighter jets, which it expected would be delivered by 2020, at the latest. According to defense minister Mansur Dan-Ali, “the U.S. government will deliver the jets as soon as possible,” after accepting the letter requesting the sale of the bomber aircraft.
However, the November 28 contract announcement say the aircrafts will be delivered in May 2024 and the contract is worth $329, although the total not-to-exceed amount is approved at $344 727 439, which will include Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) systems for six of the aircraft, ground training equipment, mission planning systems, mission debrief systems, spares, ground support equipment, and support services.
In December 2017, the Nigerian Air Force received letters of offer and acceptance for the Super Tucano deal. The Nigerian government initially said the deal was valued at $593 million, which would include Paveway II guided bombs, laser-guided rockets, 12.7 mm ammunition, unguided bombs, and infrared sensors. It is likely that the government will purchase these equipment and ammunition separately.
But based on the earlier request, it can be assumed that Nigeria will be getting AN/AAQ-22F electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor and laser designator turrets.
The deal nearly stalled earlier this year when the Nigerian defence ministry complained over the late delivery date of the aircraft and the fact that Nigerian personnel were to be excluded from the aircraft’s production and maintenance processes.
Nigerian officials have not confirmed the recent announcement and there is no indication whether it will challenge the US government on this latest information. The Nigerians have been eagerly anticipating the delivery of the aircrafts, which it believes will bolster its fight against insurgents in the northeast of the country.
Since July, the insurgents have gained on the Nigerian military, sacking it from several of its forward operating bases and killing hundreds of Nigerian soldiers. If confirmed, news of the delay in delivery of the aircrafts could dampen soldier morale at a time the Nigerian military is desperate for new momentum in the fight against Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa.