Arms race in the BSS
24 M-346 for the Nigerian Air Force
Abuja has just announced an order for 24 M-346 FA to equip its air force. The cost of the contract is estimated at 1.2 billion dollars. The Nigerian Air Force is thus continuing its privileged partnership with the Italian manufacturer Leonardo after previous orders for C-27J Spartan, AW109, AW139 and an AW189 in presidential configuration. The Roman company will be able to rely on its local partner Sec Pro Africa, which will supply weapons and spare parts. The first six aircraft will be delivered before the end of the third quarter of 2021.
Renewal of the fleet
These new aircraft will join the ranks of the growing Nigerian Air Force. They will replace the Alpha Jet A/E aircraft that are reaching the end of their service life. The M-346s will come between the 12 EMB 314 Super Tucano ordered in 2019 and the 3 JF-17C Thunder in service since 2016. The multi-purpose aircraft will complement the anti-guerrilla warfare conducted by the Super Tucano in the north of the country and provide air-to-air support to the Thunder for border defence. With this purchase, the NAF will have the most powerful air force in the region, especially since it also has a fleet of armed Chinese CH-3, CH-4, and Wing Loong II drones. Its most serious competitor, Chad, has only three Mig-29 SMs and six Su-25s, as well as aircraft leased from South African private military companies.
M-346 Fighter Attack
First unveiled at the 2017 Dubai Air Show, the M-346 Fighter Attack builds on the features of the M-346 AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer) by beefing up its capabilities with 7 external carry points and the addition of the Grifo multi-mode radar. It has a modern design with a state-of-the-art man-machine interface with liquid crystal displays and a HUD. Powered by two F124-GA-200s, it has a VMAX of 1065km/h with a ceiling of 13,715 metres and a range of 2220km in ferry mode with three external tanks. Designed primarily for advanced training, its airframe can support up to 7.3G. Multi-role par excellence, it can perform a wide range of missions from air policing (AP) to maritime operations support (TASMO) to strike guidance (JTAC). This order follows those of Poland (12), Singapore (18), Israel (30), Italy (15) and the United Arab Emirates (48) in different versions.
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