After Algeria and Morocco, Nigeria wants to initiate a strategic break in the BSS. By relying not on Western or Russian equipment, but on Chinese.
Delivery of 'Thunder' for the NAF
The Nigerian Air Force has received its first three JF-17Ns. The aircraft, built by the Kamra factory, were delivered disassembled between 24 and 25 March by an Il-76 (No. R09-001) from the Pakistan Air Force. Reassembled at the Makudi base, they bear the serial numbers NAF 720, NAF 721 and NAF 723. This delivery follows an order for three armed and air-tankable JF-17A Block IIs for $184.3 million in 2016. An option for 8 additional aircraft was included in the contract. Initial training for pilots and maintainers was completed in January 2021. The first flight is expected in the last week of March 2021.
Proximity to Beijing
Nigeria was for many years India's reference partner in Africa, but Beijing's subsequent investments have relegated New Delhi to a secondary role. The modernisation of the Chinese army has enabled many countries, like Nigeria, to renew their fleets at advantageous prices. Abuja's desire is to have the second African army behind Egypt, and for this it has invested massively in all military sectors. If the "Thunder" are emblematic of this rise in power, it should be recalled that the NAF also relies on Beijing for the fight against terrorism with the Wing Loong II (2), CH-4 (4) and CH-3A (5) armed drones produced by Chengdu Aircraft and CASC. According to a confidential memo published in the local press, the government would like to have 36 JF-17N light fighters and an AEW KJ-200 between 2025 and 2030, and to replace its Alphajet trainers with JL-8Ws (or M-346s). It also reports a willingness to order an HQ-9 anti-aircraft battery. The Nigerian Amy is not to be outdone, it has received an unspecified number of Chinese VT-4 and ST-1 tanks as well as SH-5 howitzers. As for the Nigerian Navy, it has seen its offshore capabilities evolve. According to the French military attaché, Nicolas Rimbaud, it could take the lead in international anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Guinea within five years. Far from being anecdotal, this delivery confirms Nigeria's desire to establish its military, political and economic superiority in the Gulf of Guinea, thanks to China.
The "Thunder" in detail
The JF-17 is a light multi-role, single-seat, single-engine fighter developed by AVIC Chengdu and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The design phase of the JF-17 "Thunder" was completed on 31 May 2002 and the first flight took place on 25 August 2003. The first aircraft was delivered to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 2007. It is currently used by the PAF (5 squadrons), the MAF (Myannmar Air Force, 16 aircraft) and the NAF (3 perceived aircraft, 36 planned). Based on an open architecture, it continues its development with the Block III (new engine, new avionics with helmet-mounted sight and AESA radar) which made its first flight last December. The 'Thunder' was specially designed for the PAF. It offers excellent visibility thanks to its bubble canopy, a configuration based on a truncated delta wing with tail and equipped with LERX, as well as modern avionics. The KLJ-7 radar produced by the Nanjing Institute is said to offer a SAR mode useful for air-to-ground operations. It had its baptism of fire in 2019 against the Indian Air Force, and claims to be the direct competitor of the HAL Tejas. The JF-17 is the natural replacement for the Mig-21 because of its aeronautical qualities, its weapon systems and its low cost of purchase and use. The M-346s that Abuja could acquire would also be used to train future JF-17 pilots.
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