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Nigerian Army receives first helicopters

Nigerian Army Aviation's UH-1H helicopters at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. (Nigerian Army)

The Nigerian Army announced on 20 June that it has received its first aircraft, which it identified as Bell UH-1H ‘Huey' helicopters.

It said in a statement that Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja had formally received the helicopters during a ceremony held at Abuja's Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

The announcement was accompanied by photographs of two UH-1s (NA 010 and NA 011) at the Nigerian Police Air Wing hangar at the airport. Lt Gen Lagbaja credited the police with helping the army to establish its aviation wing.

The Nigerian Army said the helicopters were fitted with advanced sensors so they can conduct reconnaissance and surveillance missions, but these could not be seen in the photographs.

The army's plan to establish an aviation wing was first announced in 2015 but the only aircraft order that was previously confirmed was one for 12 MD 350F Cayuse Warrior Plus scout/attack helicopters that MD Helicopters announced in September 2023. The American company said it would begin deliveries to Nigeria in the fourth quarter of 2023, but this has yet to happen.

Nigeria's 2023 federal budget included NGN3.1 billion (then about USD6.6 million) funding for three UH-1D helicopters and NGN2.8 billion for three Magnus MF-212 surveillance and attack aircraft for the army.

The MF-212 is an armed version of the Fusion ultralight fixed-wing aircraft made by the Hungarian company, Magnus, that is advertised by a Greek company called International Armour. The promotional imagery shows the aircraft with the markings of the Belarusian company BSVT-New Technologies.

The 2024 budget allocated NGN2.6 trillion (then about USD2.8 billion) for the operationalisation of the army's aviation wing without identifying any of the aircraft involved.

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