Nigerian Air Force Orders More Russian Helicopters

 - September 20, 2016, 12:07 PM
More Mil-35M attack helicopters are heading for Nigeria. (Photo: Nigerian Air Force)

Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport has confirmed that deliveries of Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters to Nigeria will resume in November this year, under a follow-on order for the type awarded in October 2015. This year, Russia is going to provide two helicopters. The remaining 10 will come in 2017.

The first mention of this order came last month from Air Marshal Saddique Abubakar, the Nigerian air force chief of air staff, as he spoke to the local media. Funding for the purchase is allocated in the Nigerian budget for 2016. Nigeria operates about 10 Mi-24/35s including six Mi-35Ms ordered in 2014.

Nigerian armed forces use the Russian helicopters primarily to defend oil fields from attack by various terrorist groups operating in the delta of the river Niger. In addition to the attack rotorcraft, Nigeria acquired six Mi-17s in 2014 and last year placed an order for an unknown number of Mi-17AMTSh models.

The Mi-35M is a further evolution of the Mi-24. It went into production in 2005. The helicopter is armed with a GSh-23L twin-barrel 23-mm rapid-fire cannon, Ataka ATGMs, 80-mm unguided rockets and free-fall bombs. It features non-retractable landing gear for ruggedness and simplicity (earlier models were equipped with retractable gear), an X-like tail propeller and a shortened stubby wing.

A current production version is based on the customized version for Brazil, and later acquired by Azerbaijan, Venezuela and Iraq. The cockpit is furnished with large LCDs. New items in the onboard systems include modern sighting equipment incorporating a low-level TV, and infrared channels allow for precision strikes at night.

In another interesting development, the U.S. government has eased its earlier restrictions on purchasing Russian helicopters to aid allies. Earlier, the Pentagon funded procurement of 63 Mi-17s for Afghanistan. The controversial deal was reportedly worth more than $1 billion. Shipments took place in 2011-2014. More recently, Afghanistan has requested additional Russian-made helicopters, including the Mi-35M.