Nigeria’s Short Range Air Defense System.

With the presence of foreign military bases across Nigeria’s pheriphery (mostly French and American), and its attendant compliment of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and fixed and rotary winged strike aircrafts, it is imperative for Nigeria to drop its “fire brigade buy when you need it” defense approach to defense and bolster her Short Range Air Defense assets.

For starters Nigeria’s Air Defence System is a joke, an embarassment by virtue of the size of her economy and incessant security threats. In a hypothetical war scenario against an enemy with a modest amount of 4th Gen fighter jets, the skies over Nigeria will be largely uncontested, a free for all for the simple reason that Africa’s richest country and first trillion dollar economy does not have an effective air defence system to protect her airspace from enemy air attacks.

Given this gap in air defence one would think that Nigeria will aquire fast interceptor jets to plug the gap. The NAF did aquire interceptor jets alright, in a quarter of a billion dollar deal to buy 15 vintage Chinese made F-7N Chengdu jets- itself a knock off post WW2 MIG-21 Fishbird.

How did Nigeria go from fielding a squadron or 4th Gen Jaguars in the mid eighties, to flying Chinese 3rd Gen F-7N Chengdu Airguard, an aircraft that has killed more Nigerian pilots than enemy fire.

As it stands Nigeria lacks a descent anti aircraft system. The few assets in existence can at best provide modest defence against low flying aircrafts and helicopters.

Nigeria’s Current Operational Air Defence Assets.

Annual Defence Expenditure  (from 2015 to present) : $5.01 Billion.

ZSU24 radar guided self propelled anti- aircraft gun :

Number in service : 30

ZU-23 -2 towed anti-aircraft gun :

Number in service : 350

Blowpipe Guided Missile GM K91 – Surface to Air Missile.

Number in service : 48

A very mobile SAM, the missile comes with a hard jam proof protective shell fitted with straps which enables Nigerian solders to carry the missile on their back in the field. The fact that the Blowpipe performed horribly in the Falklands, with a measly %20 success rate did not deter Nigeria from acquiring this missile system.

Roland Surface to air missile :

Number in service :  16

The fact that the Roland SAM system is the most advanced air defence weapon in Nigeria’s entire arsenal gives credence to the fact that Nigeria lacks the capacity to defender airspace from aircraft and cruise missile attack and has little or no value, except maybe from protecting airfields.

The Roland was conceived in the 50’s and built in the 60’s. It has an operational range of just 8,000 metres and a flight ceiling of roughly 6,000 metres. Pit that against the MIG-29 Fulcrum in the inventry of our next door rival Chad.The MIG-29 has an  operational range of of roughly 3000 km and a flight ceiling of 16,000 metres. By the time the ROLAND SAM gets a lock on the Mig-29 it will be too late, as its missiles will be seconds away from impact.

Strela 2 Surface to air missile.

Number in service : 100

Compare this to the Air Defense assets of Nigeria’s only military rival in the region, Chad.

Current Proven Chadian Air Defense Assets.

Annual Defense Expenditure : $321 milliom

Stinger heat seeking anti aircraft missiles.

In the early nineties, in an act of protest against the decision of France to sell Roland anti aircraft missiles to Nigeria, the nightmare of the Chadian army, N’djamena made overtures to Washington for advanced heat seeking missiles. The United States agreed to supply Chad with 34 Stinger heat seeking missiles and sent a team of American technicians to Ndjamena to help train them on how to use it, making Chad the first African country to receive this sophisticated shoulder fired anti aircraft missile.

France had earlier turned down Chad’s request for the Roland anti aircraft missile system, citing the lack of expertise and infrastructure on the part of the Chadians to manage such systems.Also, faced with economic problems the idea of sending French technicians as unpaid mercenaries to help the Chadians was out of the question. Nigeria on the other hand had the technical expertise to operate such systems and the financial wherewithal to acquire them in large quantities.

It’s just Business.

The overtures by Chad to the U.S was meant to send a strong signal to France that the United States is more than willing to support Chad militarily, with or without help from Paris.

SA-6 Mobile surface to air missile.

Number in service : 11

Chad operates one battery of the SA-6 SAM. This system alone negates Nigeria’s air superiority at a stroke. With a range in excess of 170km, it has nearly twice the range of Nigeria’s Roland missile system.

SA-13 Gopher

Number in service : 4

SA-7 Grail.*Strela-2*

Number in service : 8


Like the Nigerian Army the Chadian Army fields the Strela -2 Man Portable Air Defence (MANPAD).

FIM-43 Redeye MANPAD.

Number in service : 130

Made by General Dynamics, this system uses infrared homing to track its target.

FIM-92 Redeye MANPAD.

Number in service : 30

This is an upgraded version of the FIM-43, optimized for use against ground vehicles and helicopters.

ZSU-23-4 Self Propelled Anti aircraft Gun.

Number in service : 4

Recommendations.

To President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief of Army Staff Gen.Tukur Buratai and Chief of Defense Staff Abayomi Gabriel Olonisaken :

Setup a think tank study to analyse Nigeria’s air defense challenges.

Initiate a comprehensive air defence reform program that identifies these challenges.

Develop a new air defence structure to address the gaps in Nigeria’s Air Defense capabilities.

Establish from scratch a new Air Defence Regiment, Independent from Nigeria’s Field Artillery Regiment. This new independent regiment will be responsible for protecting a vast range of strategic, military and economic assets, ranging from Army units in the field, air defence to Nigerian Air Force bases and point defence for Nigeria’s vast oil infrastructure.

Shut down for good DICON, which has been nothing a white elephant corruption laden cash cow. A National manufacturing coporation with millions in annual RnD funding producing  small arms and flak jackets is nothing but a drain on resources.

Engage Nigerian universities and private sector investments in defence related products.

Nigeria’s recent investment in offensive military hardware is a step in the right direction given the nature of Nigeria’s Security threats, however a comprehensive look should be given to Nigeria’s ability to protect its ground forces from air attack from a near peer adversary. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent on acquiring military hardware will amount to nothing if we have no means of protecting vital assets and infrastructure from air attacks.
Nigeria’s airspace is woefully unprotected to such a degree its scary.
Anti aircraft guns should be mounted in the top of buildings in key strategic areas around Abuja. This should include at least one anti aircraft gun hard mounted on the roof of the plush Aso Rock Presidential Villa and anither one overloking the Villa at a nearby building. As a matter of fact there should be a no flight zone 5 miles out from the center of Abuja. Radar sights should be mounted around the city to monitor and enforce this restricted flight zone around the capital and a pair of supersonic jets sitting on standby, ready to intercept any hostile aircraft.

Strategic assets.

Nigeria contains what is arguably the most valuable real estate In Africa.With 40 billion barrels, Nigeria has the world’s 10th largest proven oil reserve. This massive oil reserve have made Nigeria the richest country in Africa.

In the event of a shooting war, each side will target the others economic infrastructure to gain the advantage. Nigeria was brought to its knees when Niger Delta militants attacked and disrupted production, cutting Nigeria’s oil production by half,thereby forcing the federal government to set up an Amnesty Deal. If a bunch of ragtag militias can do this imagine what a hostile enemy with airpower can do.

One would think that given these facts, no effort will be spared to defend and protect Nigeria’s vast oil infrastructure, but trust Naija, the reverse is the case. Nigerian politicians spend more on VIP aircrafts to fly VIP dignitaries than on defensive systems.There are virtually no Early Warning and strategic SAM systems in the Niger Delta.

SAM Batteries in a point-defense configuration will present  a formidable obstacle to any potential aggresor. If Nigeria is to protect its economic resources,  it must deploy strategic SHORAD systems in a manner designed to defend the most critical locations.

SA-19 “Grison”

Unit cost : $11 million.

This self-propelled SAM system is designed to provide day and night protection for ground troops and tank regiments against low flying air raft and missiles in all weather conditions.

9K33 Wasp.

Unit cost : $8 million.

This anti aircraft system is a highly mobile, low altitude SHORAD with an operational range of 500 km.

PL-9C SHORAD 

Unit cost : 12 million.

This Chinese made SHORAD has a maximum range of 500 km.

With just $150 million Nigeria can aquire several batteries of surface to air missile systems. Nigeria has as tendency to buy military hardware in single digits, in the realm of complex AD systems that will just not cut it. To protect Nigeria’s airspace and safeguard vital economic infrastructure Nigeria must buy complete batteries, which includes radars launchers, reload vehicles, redundancy communication gear etc.

But of course we have to be pragmatic here. Nigeria cannot ill afford expensive long range SAM systems of the S-300 class with equally powerful long range radars. Batteries of Short Range Air Defence Network will be sufficient for Nigeria to protect her vital assets. Most Russian made SHORAD batteries comes with as many as 4 launchers and are capable of engaging 24 target simultaneously.

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