The importance of close air support is an often overlooked aspect of ground operations. The uncertainty of receiving air support if called upon really hamstrung the operational effectiveness of the Nigerian army, forcing them to improvise in ways unbefiting of a national army.
Let’s be honest here, we all know the Nigerian army wouldn’t have fought toot and nail for an independent aviation unit if ground troops didnt fund themselves marooned and in most cases killed because they went into dangerous territory assured of air support that often times never came.
To be fair there might be some utility in using the A-29. Why should Nigeria go for the Super Tucano ?
Here are some of the selling points.
This light attack aircraft is designed to operate in high temperature and humidity conditions.
Its highly maneurvrable, has low heat signature, and incoprates 4th generation avionics and weapins systems to deliver precision guided munitions.
The A-29 is capabke of performing a broad range of missions that include light attack aerial surveillance and interception, all important aspects of COIN operations.
Can carry a wide ran of armament including PGM’s, advanced 4th G avionics and communications and sensors that can operate from remote, unpaved airstrip.
Light attack capability. Low cost counter insurgency aircraft able to operate from remote bases with unpaved runways and minimal ground support .
The A-29 can carry Piranha and Sidewinder air to air missiles, Griffin laser guided bombs, Maverick anti-tank missiles and 20 milimetre gunpods…. for good measure.
Crew : Two (Pilot and navigator in tandem seat)
Max speed : 590km/h
Steal speed : -158km/h
g limit : +7/-3.5 g
Range : 720 nautical miles. (827 miles,
Combat radios 550 km.
Endurance : 8 hours 24 mins (under any condition )
Service ceiling : 35,000 ft
Why this is quite frankly the dumbest military aquisition in the history of mankind.
The term “low cost” looses relivance considering the price tag. In February 2018 the Nigerian government paid a cool $600 million to the United States for 12 Super Tucano fighters. This is the most expensive single aquisition program in the history of the Nigerian armed forces. Twelve Super Tucano’s ! You cannot make this up. This has to be the dumbest deal in military aviation history.
To put things into perspective, an Su-35 fighter costs between $40 – $45 million . Israel recently paid $1.1 billion for 17 F-35 fighters.
Suffice to say the amount spent on the Super Tucano is financially irresponsible, operationally and tactically unnecessary, and may actually undermine the counter-terrorism campaign if improperly deployed.
The Defense Ministry says the Super Tucano fighters are needed in the ongoing military operations against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east. Statements like these gives the impression the MOD is woefully incompetent, thinks Nigerians are gullible, or both.
Before the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari, Boko Haram occupied an area the size of Belguim, encompassing 17 local governments councils in Borno State and called 2 million Nigerians its own. Within a year the Nigerian army succeeded in seizing back these territories from Boko Haram, pushing the Jihadi group back into the Sambisa forest. A year later the Nigerian military was able to take back the Sambisa forest, converting it into a shooting complex and holding sporting competitions.
This feat was achieved WITHOUT the Super Tucano. Currently no Nigerian territory is under the insurgents, and over 30,000 people, mainly women and children held by Boko Haram have been freed. 21 of the 27 local councils of Borno State were under the total control of the insurgents. But today, they are all liberated. Without the Super Tucano. Justifying this white elephant project in tactical necessity does not hold water.
One of the characteristics of counter insurgency operation is the fluidity of the threat. Boko Haram has given up trying to hold territory and engage the Nigerian military in a conventional sense and have reverted to assumetry and now operates in the shadows, conducting suicide bombings and other kinds of asymmetric attacks.
Yes maybe the Super Tucano could have been useful years ago, in todays threat environment its useless. It might be devastatingly effective against covert insurgent bases and groups of fighters operating in remote territory outside government control, as they have in Colombia or Afghanistan. But since the fall of its Sambisa Forest stronghold, Boko Haram hasn’t been vulnerable to the Super Tucano’s powerful air-to-ground attack capabilities. It’s useless at this point. Even the use of heavy artillery is getting pointless as the group tries to blend into the population .
Despite spending over half a billion dollars on aircrafts, the military balance remains unchanged. We saw how effective the MiGs were in the mid eighties. Today in the event of a rapidly escalating conflict with our geopolitical and military adversaries, can Nigeria conduct a limited airtrikes to coerce the aggressors to back down like was done against the Cameroonians in the nineties? Does the Nigerian Air Force have the capability to guarantee the aggressor of punitive strikes in the event of military adventurism on Nigeria’s territory or those of our allies?
This is a real question the Nigerian President must ponder over. Thinking Nigeria can defend itself from an attack by a poorer less powerful adversary is a dangerous fantasy.
Here is the hypothetical scenario. Let’s forget about Bakassi, Nigeria lost Bakassi and will never get it back.
Chad decides to annex part, or all of the oil rich Islands in Nigerian controlled Lake Chad basin, much like it did in 1983. Chadian ground forces backed by amoured vehicles and helicopter gunships cross the border, and Nigeria is forced to respond with a mixed force of amoured brigades and air power.
All of the sudden, its threatening to morph into full-fledged war, threatening to engulf Borno State and push further inland because resistance at this point is minimal.
Fearing that the fighting will spill over into the rest of Borno or even break out as far inland as Maiduguri, Nigeria’s only option is to try to halt the advance of the enemy by harassing air strikes long enough for Nigeria to mobilize for full scale war and take advantage of its superior man power, in the hope is that this will cause Chadian commanders to pause amidst the destruction, and take a second to reconsider their options about going to war with Nigeria.
Does the Nigeria Air Force have the necessary assets to pull it off ? Especially if with the help of their ally France they manage to pull off a propaganda painting Nigeria as the bully, the aggressor attacking a smaller state, forcing France to come to the defense of its tiny lesser powerful ally.
In theory, a blistering defense, led by air attacks would be enough time for cooler heads to prevail and for the invading army to try to hammer out some kind of ceasefire before Nigeria is able to mobilize for full scale war.
This is not a fantasy, this scenario is a legitimate one.
While wars are fought and won by boots on the ground, the most important part of a nation’s military in the begining of hostilities is the Air Force. Its faster to deploy. Beyond deterrence, a strong Air Force force provides the president with uniquely flexible options in an extreme crisis, particularly the ability to signal intent and control escalation.
The Nigerian military claims to have embarked on an extensive plan to replace, and enhance the lethality of its fighting force. To this end the President just approved $1 Billion taken from the excess crude account to buy new weapons.
The $600 spent on aquiring an aircrat that looks remarkably like the forebearer of the Second World War, the P-51 Mustang is an incompetence that borders on criminal. The Super Tucano is not designed to stand up in front conventional air and ground battle field forces .
Since 2014 Nigeria has spent $25 billion on its military, yet the status quo of Nigeria’s strategic assets remain the same, or in some cases have degenerated.
With only between 6 to 8 F-7Ni fighter jets to defend a $1 trillion economy, how can any nation take
in the NAF with air to air capabilities and the only supersonic fighters, Nigeria has consistently proven we are not a nation to be taken seriously.
The Nigerian Air Force has a capability gap that poses an existential threat to the Nigerian Federation in a scale even Boko Haram will say “I don’t believe this !” .
The leaders of Africa’s wealthiest economy at determined to drive this nation to the ground with their ineptitude, and it seems there is nothing anybody can do to stop them.