Nigeria buys 24 Italian M-346 Master light combat aircraft

PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – Nigeria may buy 24 M-346 Master aircraft. Most likely, they will be training, and combat machines learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24. Talks with Leonardo are in progress. In service, the M-346s would replace the old Dassault / Dornier Alpha Jet aircraft. At the moment, no detailed information is available on the terms and costs of the transaction.

Nigeria buys 24 Italian M-346 Master light combat aircraft
Photo credit: Flight Global

According to African Intelligence, Nigeria wants to acquire new Leonardo Aircraft training and combat aircraft as part of the armed forces modernization program. Negotiations are ongoing, but as reported by the portal, the Abuja government would like to receive the first six M-346 aircraft this year.

The machines are to replace the Alpha Jet and L-39ZA Albatros airplanes in the scope of the tasks performed. This is especially true of the intensively exploited, over 40-year-old Alpha Jet aircraft used to counter fighters from the extremist organization Boko Haram.

The M-346 Master is also used to train pilots of the newest Nigerian multi-role planes, the Pakistani-Chinese PAC JF-17 Block 2 Thunder. So far, three airframes of this type had ordered, but the target number is 40. The first should reach Abuja in November last year, but the pandemic thwarted these plans, and the delivery date is unknown.

The introduction of Masters and Thunder machines would allow the withdrawal of the historic Chengdu F-7NI, the Chinese copy of the MiG-21 fighter. At least half of the 12 machines that were delivered by China 15 years ago remain in service.

Currently, Nigeria is carrying out an intensive program of modernization of the air force, including, among other things, deliveries of Chinese CH-3, CH-4, and Wing Loong II drones, Brazilian A-29 Super Tucano training, and combat machines, and Russian Mi-35 and Mi-17 helicopters. Apart from the M-346 Master planes, the Italian Leonardo’s concern is to deliver six-light AW109 helicopters to Abuja.

M-346 Master will be the most modern aircraft in Nigeria

Interestingly, if a contract is concluded for the M-346FA or M346LFFA (Light Fighter Family of Aircraft), they will be the most modern Nigerian aviation machines, more advanced than the JF-17 fighters. The combat version of the M-346 is equipped with a Grifo-346 radar, which guides air and ground targets and self / alien identification (IFF).

Each of the two-person crew has 6 LCDs and a HOTAS standard control system that allows you to operate all functions without taking your hands off the stick and throttle. The machine has nine weapon suspension points, including guides at the wings’ ends, intended for air-to-air missiles.

Master can carry Iris-T, AIM-9L Sidewinder, or I-Derby air-to-air missiles (including ER version). Leonardo can place a wide range of weapons on the under-wing nodes: from Boeing JDAM or Roketsan Teber, 81 bombs to Brimstone and Marte-ER guided missiles, electronic warfare containers, etc. others. The machine is powered by two Honeywell F124-GA-200 engines, which ensures its good power-to-weight ratio and relatively low operating costs.

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