The Agusta A109-series of helicopters first entered Nigerian military service in July 2004, with the delivery of maritime variants of the airframe to the Nigerian Navy Air Arm, which had operated Westland Lynx helicopters since 1986 when the Nigerian Navy Air Arm became fully operational.
Press releases made available by Agusta at the time indicate that over the course of two deliveries in July and September 2004, the Navy Air Arm received a total of four units of Agusta A109E Power helicopters.
Again in March 2009, an additional two units were delivered to the Navy’s Air Arm with a view to further boosting the Navy’s aerial survey and maritime patrol capabilities within Nigeria’s volatile Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) against the backdrop of mounting threats to maritime security – insurgency, piracy, kidnapping and oil theft by armed syndicates and militia groups, among others.
For its part, the Nigerian Air Force operate the dedicated armed military variant namely, the Agusta A109 LUH which were delivered to the resurgent service in 2010 and were first seen in public during the maiden ”Air Expo 2010” which was put together by the Nigerian Air Force in Kaduna during the month of May 2010. An additional squadron of the Agusta A109 LUH is believed to be on order.
During the celebrations held to mark the 45th anniversary of the Nigerian Air Force in 2009 held at Osogbo in Southwestern Nigeria, President Umar Yar’Adua of blessed memory had announced the approval of funds for the acquisition of a squadron of Agusta A109 helicopters and for the resuscitation of a range of military airlift aircraft ranging from Alenia G222s to Lockheed Charlie C130 Hercules planes. The 2010 deliveries of Agusta A109 LUH to the Nigerian Air Force are believed to have been made in partial fulfilment of that pledge.
Whereas the Nigerian Armed Forces as a whole were severely underfunded throughout the 1990s, curiously by a succession of military regimes in deference to sharp practice and to the narrow quest for regime survival, the Nigerian Air Force came to the verge of being grounded entirely.
Over the course of the past decade going back to 2001, a succession of democratic federal governments of Nigeria have acquired a range of new aircraft for the Nigerian Air Force – including Mi-35P and Mi-24V attack helicopters, Mi-171Sh armed combat transport helicopters, Agusta A109 LUH armed helicopters, ATR-42MPA Surveyor maritime patrol aircraft and F7NI Airguard fighter jets.
Concerning mid-life upgrades and the refurbishment of hitherto inoperable but sparingly used airframes, the entire fleet of G222 and C-130 Hercules planes (see Beeg Eagle’s Blog August 2011 archives), none of which appears to have logged in more than 5,000 flight hours before they were grounded by a mix of sanctions slammed against obdurate military regimes and wilfull neglect by outgone miitary dictators, are now being resuscitated and upgraded en masse.
The clearest indication of the growth and fast-paced developments in the military airlift facet of the NAF’s activities lies in the fact of the upgrade of the 88 Military Airlift Group to the status of an Air Command – the AIR MOBILITY COMMAND, which came into existence in March 2011. In 1988, the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida had created the Military Airlift Command with headquarters at Ibadan under headship of the now-deceased Air Vice Marshal Usman Natiti.
With the enforcement of NATO and EU arms embargo and sanctions against the Federal Military Government, the Military Airlift Command was hard-hit and was soon downgraded to the status of an Air Group – the 88 Military Airlift Group in 1992-3.
By the same token, advanced trainer/light attack subsonic jets such as the venerable Alpha Jet series which saw action throughout the 1990s during the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Civil Wars as part of Nigeria’s ECOMOG contingent are also now being upgraded. Four units of upgraded Alpha Jet aircraft were delivered to the Nigerian Air Force in June 2011(see Beeg Eagle’s Blog archives) and a further six upgraded units are slated for delivery before the end of 2011.
Concurrently, the entire squadron of MB-339A advanced trainer/light attack subsonic jets are being upgraded to the contemporary “CD variant” by Alenia of Italy.
Also on the bill for upgrade and refurbishment are the Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma (3 units) and the Eurocopter AS 332 Super Puma (12 units). When fully restored to airworthiness and with an additional four units of Eurocopter AS 332 B1/C1 variants, which are military and radar-equipped search-and-rescue variants on order at the time of filing this report, the NAF could find themselves in an position of being able to deploy 19 units of modernised Puma and Super Puma utility helicopters before the end of 2012. That, the ongoing resuscitation of G222s and stretch variant Lockheed C130 Hercules for a total of twelve planes (six in each class) and the expected delivery of Mi-171Sh helicopters, of which a minimum of six and possibly a squadron of twelve units are reportedly on order and are on the cusp of being delivered to the Nigerian Air Force, would very greatly improve the fortunes of the nascent Air Mobility Command.
Additionally, a large number of pilots, flight engineers and technicians have been sent abroad for training in the USA, Italy, France, Greece, Portugal, the UK, China and Belarus.
The construction of new air bases, hangars, workshops and the resuscitation of hitherto inactive airbases have also been a part of the gradual resurgence of the Nigerian Air Force, which is still a long way from its best decade of 1982-1992, a formidable stature which was largely made possible by the £6 billion shopping spree undertaken for the Nigerian Armed Forces as a whole by the outgone Shagari administration between 1980 and 1983.
Regardless, the officers and men of the Nigerian Air Force do appear to be on their way to engendering a new lease of life for the service. This with the hoped-for continued support of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Crew: 1 or 2 pilots
Capacity: 7/6 passengers
Length: 42 ft 9 in (13.04 m)
Rotor diameter: 36 ft 2 in (11.00 m)
Height: 11 ft 6 in (3.50 m)
Empty weight: 3,461 lb (2,000kg)
Max takeoff weight: 6,283 lb (2,850 kg–3,000 kg (depending on version)
Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada 206C or Turbomeca Arrius 2K1 turboshafts, 567 hp or 571 hp (423 kW or 426 kW)each
Maximum speed: 177 mph (154 knots, 285 km/h)
Ferry range: 599 mi (521 NM, 964 km)
Service ceiling: 19,600 ft (6,000 m)
Rate of climb: 1,930 ft/min (9.8 m/s)
VARIANTS IN NIGERIAN SERVICE
(AGUSTA A109 POWER)
NIGERIAN NAVY AIR ARM
The Power represents the best solution for an embarked light twin helicopter, thanks to its multi-mission effectiveness, extensive corrosion protection and its ability to operate in high sea states from small ships. The aircraft features a reinforced-wheeled landing gear to withstand the rigours of ship operations and provides easy deck handling compared to skid-equipped aircraft. Storage on board ship is facilitated through quick removal of two of the main rotor blades. To withstand high pitch and roll movement, secure lashing points and mooring provisions are provided.
The wide range of mission equipment and systems make the A109 Power a true maritime multi-role helicopter able to satisfy a wide range of missions including maritime patrol, armed interdiction, search and rescue, emergency medical services and passenger transport.
The maritime variant is also equipped with an advanced avionics suite allowing all-weather operations and can be equipped with a 360Â° or 120Â° scan search radar and maritime band radios allowing communications with other naval units. The A109 Power greatly extends a ships horizon and can track surface vessels while relaying data by voice or data link back to the ship or other units
ARMED (MILITARY): AGUSTA A109 LUH NIGERIAN AIR FORCE
(Agusta A109 LUH only)
Guns: possibilities include 12.7 mm machine gun (250 rounds) in pod, pintle mounted 7.62 mm machine gun, door gunner post 12.7 mm machine gun
Missiles: possibilities include 2 × TOW missile launchers (2 or 4 missiles each), unguided rockets in pods (2.75 in or 81 mm rockets with 7 or 12 tubes per pod), rocket/machine gun pod (70 mm × 3 rockets and 12.7 mm machine gun (200 rounds)
With additional reports from AGUSTA online portal