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Nigerian Air Force Commissions First Mi-35Ms

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) formally commissioned its first two new Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters during an event held at Makurdi Air Base on 22 April to mark the service's 53rd anniversary.
   One of the NAF's two new Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters. (Nigerian Air Force)

The two helicopters are the first of 12 Mi-35Ms ordered by Nigeria as part of its efforts to modernise its military capabilities. NAF Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar said they will significantly boost counter-insurgency capabilities, particularly for operations against Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria.

Designed to operate at night and in all weather conditions, the Mi-35M is the most modern variant of the Mi-24 'Hind' family of attack helicopters.

The NAF has been operating second-hand Mi-24s for many years, but these are its first new attack helicopters and the first Mi-35Ms that Russian Helicopters has delivered to a Sub-Saharan country, although it was recently revealed that Mali also has at least one on order.

The Mi-35M comes with an OPS-24N targeting and surveillance system and a chin-mounted twin-barrelled 23 mm gun. The NAF displayed its new helicopters with an external fuel tank, a pod for 80 mm S-8 rockets, another for a twin-barrelled 23 mm gun, and a pair of unidentified (either 9M114 Shturm or 9M120 Ataka) anti-tank missiles.

During its anniversary celebrations, the NAF also displayed its locally developed Gulma unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and conducted demonstrations that included a fly-by with three new Diamond DA40 aircraft, a type it appears to be using in the training role.

Ceremonial colours were presented to the newly established NAF Special Operations Command. Air Marshal Abubakar announced in January 2017 that this would be formed with its headquarters in Bauchi.
Six pilots, two of which undertook training at the King Hussein Air College in Jordan, while the other four trained at the International Helicopter Flying School of Enugu, Nigeria, also received their wings during the ceremony.

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