The Nigerian Armed Forces are thought to retain, in the service of regular naval and amphibious forces’ service (army and naval special forces as well), a fleet of 350-400 river gunboats and inshore patrol craft, landing craft, gun-armed fast launches, catamarans, rigid hull inflatable boats and special forces insertion boats.
Most of these boats are Singaporean Suncraft types for which construction has typically been outsourced to Strategic Marine shipyards in Australia and Vietnam and Nautica Nova of Malaysia. These account for nearly 250 gunboats and landing craft of the total estimated haul of 400 boats and landing craft and include Suncraft Scorpion Mk.II attack boats, Otter landing craft, Manta ASD fast interceptors and other Stingray boat types.
Regardless of their country of origin, many of the boats range in length from the 9-metre RBS Defender boats used by the Navy (about 35 units) to the 10-meter Scorpion Mk.II gunboats (150 units) which are standard issue for the Army’s amphibious forces. These types of boats are equal in size to the American PCR gunboats which were deployed in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War.
Beyond those are a range of over 75 units of 12-17 meter river gunboats, landing craft and MANTA ASD boats, all of which are typically Suncraft Stingray designs. These are also similar in size to the famous 15-metre Swiftboats PCF gunboats which were fielded by American forces during the Vietnam War.
Moving on, many of these boats which are armed with Singapore Technologies Kinetics 12.7mm heavy machine guns and/or 40mm automatic grenade launchers. Both of these weapons can be seen clearly from the first photo on this page – with the 12.7mm gun mounted in front of the Nigerian Navy RBS Defender boat while a 40mm automatic grenade launcher is the sturdy-looking weapon at the back of the boat.
Some of the larger riverine warfare combatants such as the landing craft (which is standard issue for the Army Amphibious Forces) carry as many as three of the Singapore Technologies Kinetics CIS 12.7mm HMGs.
On the other hand, the 10-meter Scorpion Mk.II gunboats of the Army Amphibious Forces normally carry two DShK 12.7mm heavy machine guns.
The Special Boat Service of the Nigerian Navy (special forces) who appear to be dressed in their trademark black bodysuits and can be seen manning the the RBS Defender boat shown above, appear to prefer and have been photographed in US-built RBS Defender boats, NC 27 stealth boats and Rigid Hull Inflatable boats.
There is also an assortment of gunboats which have been given as tokens of operational support to the military and to the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta by state governments in the Niger Delta. Some of those, such as the eleven gunboats which were given by the Akwa Ibom State Government were acquired from Israel and armed with a mix of automatic grenade launchers and heavy machine guns. Some of the other boats are also thought to have been constructed by boatyards which have for many years been active in the Niger Delta where they typically manufacture boats for oil industry operators.
Last week, the Chief of Army Staff gave indications to the effect that the Nigerian Army, in collaboration with indigenous boatyard operators, have also now commenced the construction of armour-plated gunboats in Nigeria. These are intended for the benefit of the Amphibious Forces of the Nigerian Army.
It is pertinent to point out that the overwhelming majority of this enormous fleet of riverline warfare combatants are not surprisingly deployed to the volatile but oil-soaked Niger Delta, a vast wetlands region which is larger than Scotland and Belgium put together and is one-and-half times larger than the Mekong Delta where the riverline warfare engagements of the Vietnam War took place.
The Niger Delta is home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, with over US$120 billion worth of oil industry dotted all across its labyrinthine and daunting maze of 3,014 creeks, estuaries and waterways.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gar3th…a Nigerian Patriot