by David Donald
A first batch of six Embraer/Sierra Nevada A-29 Super Tucano training aircraft left the U.S. on July 14 on their delivery flight to Nigeria. The journey involved stops in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Spain, and Algeria. The type will be formally inducted into Nigerian Air Force (NAF) service at a ceremony to be held in August.
Following several delays, a contract for 12 A-29s was placed by the U.S. Department of Defense on behalf of Nigeria with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Embraer Defense & Security in November 2018. The country became the 14th air force to adopt the type. The contract provides for a comprehensive ground systems, training, and support package, including field service representatives.
The aircraft are built in Embraer’s plant at Jacksonville, Florida, before modification by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) at Centennial in Colorado. A number of the first batch have been based at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, for pilot and technician training. The second batch of six is due to follow around the end of the year. Initial images released by SNC depicted an aircraft in a sand-colored, two-tone “desert” scheme, but subsequent images show aircraft with a green/brown “jungle” camouflage.
Procurement of the A-29s is part of a major NAF effort to expand its attack forces as it faces Islamic State and Boko Haram insurgents, mainly in the north of the country. With its armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability, and the ability to operate from austere bases, the A-29 is an ideal platform for counter-terrorism and irregular warfare operations.
In May this year, the NAF inducted three PAC JF-17 Thunder jet fighters for “type familiarization”, with an aim of possibly procuring as many as 40 from Pakistan. Nigeria also claimed in March to have 24 Leonardo M-346FA fighter/attack jets on order, although the manufacturer subsequently denied that a firm order had been placed. In the meantime, NAF technicians have been working hard to restore a number of retired fighter/attack assets to operational status, including Dassault Alpha Jet and Aero L-39ZA Albatros armed trainers, and Chengdu F-7Ni fighters.