Bell Textron awarded contract to supply NAF with AH-1Z Vipers

The United States Naval Air Systems Command has contracted Bell Textron a $455 million contract to supply the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) with 12 AH-1Z Viper advanced attack helicopters.

Leonardo says the first batch of Nigerian Air Force M-436 fighter jets will be delivered by the end of this year. Image: Leonardo

This will to boost its firepower and operational capabilities for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.

In terms of a notice listed on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) register on March 12, Bell Textron will produce and deliver the helicopters together with associated post-delivery engineering, logistics, programme management as well as life extension support services for the aircraft.

The AH-1Z Viper is an advanced attack helicopter famed for its versatility in combat roles. It is equipped with advanced avionics system and carries an array of lethal armaments such as rockets, missile systems and other types of precision-guided weapons.

The boost from the US Navy came amid a continuing force modernisation programme that has seen the Nigerian Air Force boost the acquisition of new aerial defence platforms crucial for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) as well as patrol roles.

Some of the new aircraft expected to boost the NAF firepower include eight Hungarian-made Magnus light attack helicopters, 12 US-made MD-530 Cayuse Warrior attack helicopters, 10 Bayraktar attack drones from Turkey and 24 M-346 fighter jets from Italian military aerospace equipment giant Leonardo.

Internally, the NAF is advancing efforts to operationalise a modern force with the construction of a US$3.2 million aircraft hangar at the Bola Ahmed Tinubu International Airport in Niger State. The facility will be first privately-funded Nigerian Army aviation facility, with the money coming from the Nigerian-based Pan-African Business Forum.

Nigerian Army aviation coordinator brigadier-general Mussa Alkali said once complete the new aircraft hangar will boost the force operational readiness while enhancing aircraft maintenance processes, which have previously impacted on the service delivery times for aircraft on service.    

The NAF is also partnering with Hungarian helicopter manufacturer Magnus to build its trainer and attack helicopter variants in Nigeria. Run in conjunction with the Nigerian College of Aviation, the project is also supported financially by the Nigerian government.

Oscar Nkala

Oscar Nkala

Oscar is a Zimbabwean born journalist working across Africa covering defence, aerospace and the environment.