PHOTO CREDIT: OOKABOO
The cockpit of a modernised Su-25KM ground attack jet
PHOTO CREDIT: GLOBAL SECURITY
A weaponised Puma SOCAT
8 February, 2015
Late last week, reports emerged in the Nigerian media of a hunt by the Ministry of Defence for the following aircraft
* four vastly upgraded Su-25KM ‘Scorpion’ ground attack jets
(so thoroughly modernised by Elbit Systems of Israel that its name changed from the ‘Frogfoot’ to the ‘Scorpion)
* two Su-25UB trainer variants
* six upgraded and weaponised Puma helicopters.
Now, all of the foregoing represents heartwarming news for proponents of a sterner string of acquisitions for the Nigerian military.
The only snag to the cheery bit of news was that the offer made by the prospective supplier, a contractor, appeared to have been phenomenally inflated by anything between 100% and 130%. But that is another matter which shall elicit a comment hereafter.
Moving on, for several years now, there have been strident calls on this blog for the induction of the Su-25 Frogfoot into Nigerian Air Force service. Whereas the Nigerian Air Force have almost single-handedly defined the combat profile of the Alpha Jet on account of several thousand sorties flown since 1990, the Alpha Jet is limited by its payload and soft-skinned fuselage.
The A-Jet typically feature four hardpoints, even as the Nigerian Air Force own a few upgraded examples which feature six hardpoints.
Comparatively, the Su-25 Frogfoot incorporates an armoured hull with pilots able to fly through a laid-up wall of 20mm flak. It features eleven hardpoints and can carry over 4,000kg of ordnance into battle. The Sukhoi Su-25 is almost certainly superior in power and performance to Nigeria’s venerable Alpha Jet aircraft, even as emerging and reliable reports indicate that the country have also lately taken delivery of four additional units (delivery of two units pending) of vastly upgraded Alpha Jet aircraft which feature day-night operational capability and are able to deliver precision guided munitions.
But a modernised Su-25KM will always be more potent and better protected than any variant of Alpha Jet.
If Nigeria do induct the vastly improved Su-25KM Scorpion, it would be the most potent variant of the aircraft available in Africa today. We certainly need those – for all weather operations, versatility, superior striking power and pilot protection.
Moving on, we have previously called for the NAF to webaponise her Puma helicopters to the configuration that is the Puma SOCAT.
So the idea of armed Puma helicopters is okay by me. But not at the cost of about US$40 million per unit as entailed in that bogus offer. NO helicopter is worth paying that much for – assault, attack or transport, let alone a pre-owned one. Not when a pre-owned Mi-17 helicopter, which carries twice as many troops as a Puma, can be acquired and weaponised for less than a quarter of that amount by ATE of South Africa.
If crew availability issues has necessitated the specific requirement for armed Puma helicopters, then we must seek vendors who have pre-owned units available for sale at a unit cost not exceeding US$7.5 million. Thereafter, we can contract the services of ATE South Africa to weaponise and equip them for no more than US$5 million apiece.
By the way, why do we need to buy Su-25s from contractors? Why not buy directly from ROSOBORONEXPORT or BVST and then contract ELBIT SYSTEMS to modernise them? We can also buy pre-owned PUMA helicopters from some foreign airforce or corporations and have ATE of South Africa weaponise them or can’t we?