Nigeria to strengthen its Air Force with 18 attack helicopters from US & Türkiye


According to Premium Times, the head of the Nigerian Air Force, Hassan Abubakar, announced during a one-day visit to the 115 Special Operation Group (SOG) at Port Harcourt on 23/08/2023 that the USA and Türkiye would soon deliver 18 attack helicopters to Nigeria, enhancing the nation's aerial capabilities.

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Nigeria to strengthen Air Force with 18 attack helicopters from the US and Turkiye 925Bell AH-1Z Viper (Picture source: Wikipedia)   


The United States is set to supply 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, while the Turkish government will provide six Turkish attack helicopters. Scheduled for delivery in September, these helicopters aim to boost the Nigerian Air Force's fleet.

The procurement of these helicopters has not been without obstacles. Nigeria has previously faced difficulties in acquiring these weapons, following allegations of civilian attacks during the fight against Boko Haram. In 2014, the United States halted the sale of surplus American-made weapon systems to Nigeria, citing human rights concerns. However, the situation shifted when the US began delivering arms to Nigeria starting in 2016.

The US helicopters, Bell AH-1Z Viper, are twin-engine attack helicopters based on the AH-1W SuperCobra. Designed and produced by American aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter, they feature a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system.

Developed during the 1990s and 2000s, the AH-1Z was part of the H-1 upgrade program for the United States Marine Corps (USMC). It modernized the existing AH-1Ws and shares over 84% identical components with the Bell UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. The AH-1Z's maiden flight was conducted on 8 December 2000, and low-rate initial production began in October 2003.


Nigeria to strengthen Air Force with 18 attack helicopters from the US and Turkiye 925 001

TAI/AgustaWestland T129 Atak (Picture source: Wikipedia)


The Turkish helicopters, TAI/AgustaWestland T129 Atak, are twin-engine, tandem-seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopters. Six T129 ATAK helicopters will be delivered to Nigeria in September 2023, following the Defense Industry Cooperation Agreement between Turkey and Nigeria, signed in October 2021 during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit.

The T129 Atak, developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with partner AgustaWestland, is based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform. It is the result of integrating Turkish-developed avionics, airframe modifications, and weapon systems onto the AgustaWestland A129 airframe, with upgraded engines, transmission, and rotor blades. The unit cost of the helicopter is roughly US$ 50 million.

Nigeria's aerial capabilities have seen significant expansion, with a diverse fleet of helicopters and aircraft from various countries. Recent acquisitions include Pakistan's JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, Italy's armed AW109M light helicopters, Russia's Mi-35M attack helicopters, and China's unmanned aerial vehicles. With the upcoming addition of the US and Turkish attack helicopters, Nigeria's helicopter fleet continues to expand.

Within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria is recognized for having the best army to intervene in Niger. With a well-developed defense infrastructure and significant experience in regional military operations, Nigeria's armed forces are an influential presence in the region. The acquisition of these 18 attack helicopters further solidifies Nigeria's military capabilities and its role in maintaining regional security.