The official Twitter handle of the Government of Nigeria announced that the country’s air force was expecting the delivery of three JF-17 fighters from Pakistan.
The Government of Nigeria Twitter handle quoted Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, chief of the Nigerian Air Force, as saying, “We are expecting 3 JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft from Pakistan, 12 A-29 Super Tucano from the United States, and one Mi-171E… A total of 200 personnel are receiving training in 9 different countries of the world on handling combat aircraft. They will soon join their colleagues in the fight against insecurity and in particular, insurgency in the North East.”
Pakistan-made JF-17 Thunder Block II jets have been spotted in Nigerian Air Force (NAF) paint scheme indicating that they could be headed to Abuja.
Images appearing in social media show the blue-on-white round logo of the NAF on the wing of a JF-17 Thunder aircraft.
Images surfaced of Nigerian pilots training on the JF-17 at the Pakistan Aeronautics Complex (PAC), the company that builds the aircraft.
On November 10, the Nigerian Air Force’s Facebook account tweeted that the Makurdi Air Base was being modernised to accommodate the JF-17 fighters.
The Nigerian Air Force announced that Abubakar had commissioned a facility to accommodate “Pakistani pilots and technicians who would support the JF-17 aircraft during the first year of its operations in Nigeria”.
Talk of a deal between Pakistan and Nigeria to supply JF-17 fighters was first reported in 2015-2016. In 2018, Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee approved a deal to sell three JF-17 jets to Nigeria at a cost of $184.3 million.
Interestingly, China Economic Net, a Chinese state publication, reported on Tuesday that the deal to supply to JF-17 fighters to Nigeria was a joint venture between PAC and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation. “Each jet costing $61.2 million apiece includes a complement of missiles, laser-guided bombs and targeting pods supplied by China,” China Economic Net reported.
The JF-17 is expected to be Nigeria’s most advanced supersonic fighter. The Nigerian Air Force currently uses the Chinese-built J-7 (a derivative of the MiG-21). The JF-17 would give the Nigerian Air Force the capability to fire beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and also deploy precision-guided bombs for ground-attack missions against groups such as Boko Haram.
The JF-17 entered service with the Pakistan Air Force in 2010. Over 150 JF-17 fighters have been built and Pakistan and China have been engaged in developing an upgraded ‘Block 3’ variant that would feature advanced radar and other electronics.