7, June 2016
The Nigerian Air Force has received another second hand Alpha Jet from the United States, joining several other aircraft received from Air USA Inc. The latest aircraft was seen transiting Iqaluit Airport in Canada on 2 June and then Reykjavik, Iceland, before arriving in the United Kingdom on June 3. It refuelled at Manchester Airport and then continued its journey to Nigeria. Two Alpha Jets were delivered from the United States in March and May 2015, with four aircraft apparently being acquired by Nigeria. It is not clear if the latest delivery is part of the original batch of four, or a fifth example. (Serials of the three known to be delivered are NAF475, NAF477 and NAF478 while the latest delivery is NAF478.)
Earlier this year the Nigerian Air Force revealed it had armed two of the Alpha Jets. Nigerian Air Force (NAF) spokesman Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa in January said the Alpha Jets bought from the United States could not be deployed on operations because they could not deliver weapons, thus relegating them to training. He said the NAF had earlier looked overseas for assistance to get the aircraft reconfigured for combat but foreign companies were asking for $20,000-30,000 to carry out initial assessments of the project, so the NAF decided to form its own team to carry out the work.
“The model worked on the ground, and has since been mounted on the Alpha Jets, and test flown successfully,” he said. “This feat is a major research and development breakthrough for the NAF and the nation as a huge foreign exchange saver, given the project only cost about N400,000 [$2,000].” Two Alpha Jets were subsequently armed, with photos showing what appeared to be a 68 mm SNEB rocket launcher pod and a 250 kg unguided bomb attached to the aircraft. The Alpha Jets acquired from the United States were flown by Air USA Inc, which specialises in military air combat readiness training and flies Hawks, Alpha Jets, MiG-29s and L-59 Super Albatroses. They were originally flown by the Luftwaffe before operating in the States.
Air USA Alpha Jets were converted for night vision goggle (NVG) operations, according to the company, and flight certified for operational use of TER, IMER and SUU-20 bomb racks. However, armament capability was removed prior to their sale. Nigerian Alpha Jets have been used in the ground attack role to strike Boko Haram targets and a couple have been lost on operations: one crashed in Niger, killing two pilots, in May 2013 while another went down in September 2014. The NAF has recently reactivated a number of its Alpha Jets. A total of 24 were acquired in the 1980s but several have been lost in crashes. Apparently 11 have been made flyable again.