Nigeria plans to strengthen Air Force with 24 fighter jets from Italy’s Leonardo

The M-346FA can integrate different types of armaments and external loads, including air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions (such as IR, radar and/or laser/GPS-guided munitions), gun pods, and target reconnaissance and designation pods, integrated with Helmet Mounted Displays (HMD). Photo: Leonardo

By Emmanuel Babafemi

Friday, April 19, 2024 — In a significant move aimed at strengthening its air defence capabilities, Nigeria has finalised plans to procure 24 fighter jets from Leonardo, an Italian aerospace company.

This was disclosed by the Air Force spokesperson, Air Vice Marshal Edward Gabkwet, in Abuja.

The acquisition, which includes a minimum of 25 years of maintenance support from Leonardo, is part of Nigeria’s broader strategy to modernise its armed forces and enhance its ability to combat insurgency.

The first batch of six M-346 aircraft is expected to arrive in the country before the end of the year, with subsequent deliveries to follow in four batches.

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The decision to acquire these fighter jets comes amidst ongoing security challenges in Nigeria, particularly in the northeast region where groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State affiliate are active.

Additionally, the country has faced a surge in incidents of kidnapping and banditry in various parts of the country.

The deal follows a recent visit by Claudio Sabatino, the vice president of Leonardo, to meet with Nigeria’s Air Force chief in Abuja, underscoring the importance of the partnership between the two entities.

With the acquisition of these advanced fighter jets, Nigeria aims to significantly enhance its operational capabilities and maintain air superiority in the face of evolving security threats.