By Iliya Kure
The United States says leaders from its Department of Defence have attended the induction ceremony of A-29 Super Tucano, hosted by Nigerian Minister of Defence Bashir Salihi Magashi and the Nigerian Air Force.
The newly acquired U.S. made A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is meant to assist Nigeria in the fight against violent extremist organisations including the Islamic State in the West African Province.
A statement made available to AFRICA PRIME NEWS by the U.S. Embassy quotes Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa commander saying, “The Nigerian Air Force is one of our key partners that plays a critical role in furthering regional security and stability,” adding that the “ceremony symbolizes the strength of our unique partnership and underscores the value of training and working together.”
The Super Tucanos were the impetus for significant deepening of training and professional relationships, he added. Precision targeting, air-to-ground integration, and human rights training are all included in the partnership between the U.S. and Nigeria.
According to the statement, “Nigeria purchased the A-29s through the Foreign Military Sales program, which follows the Department of Defense’s “Total Package Approach” model and includes spare parts for several years of operation, contract logistics support, munitions, and a multi-year construction project to improve Kainji Air Base infrastructure.
“The total sale is valued at almost $500 million, making it the largest FMS program in sub-Saharan Africa. Harrigian and U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, spoke to media about how this platform will help improve Nigerian Air Force capabilities, as well as increase training and integration opportunities between Nigerian and U.S. troops.
The A-29 can perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and precision air-to-ground strikes, strengthening Nigeria’s ability to fight terrorism.
A total of 64 pilots and maintainers from the Nigerian Air Force trained to U.S. standards with the U.S. Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Base in Georgia, USA.
Training also emphasized the Law of Armed Conflict and civilian casualty mitigation, which are fundamental principles of the Nigerian military’s professional education and training.
As part of the program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing $36.1M in infrastructure support to the A-29s’ home base, Kainji Air Base, including a covered magazines and aircraft sunshades, a new airfield hot cargo pad, perimeter and security fencing, airfield lights, and various airfield apron, parking, hangar, and entry control point enhancements.