The Nigerian Air Force purchases the Italian M-346FA fighter jet over the Indian Tejas for its light combat aircraft program, Global Defense Corp revealed, citing sources.
NAF chief Hassan Abubakar has “evinced” interest in the “affordable and efficient supersonic advanced light attack platform” over other aircraft in contention, the Global Defense Corp wrote, quoting an unnamed official. He added that the deal is expected to proceed if the current government returns to power after the general elections in 2023.
The NAF is looking to add a fleet of 36 light combat aircraft and lead-in fighter trainer aircraft in two to three installments.
Apart from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Tejas, China-Pakistan’s JF-17, Leonardo M-346FA, and Turkish Aerospace’s Hurjet were in the race.
The competition has reportedly narrowed down to the Italian and Turkish jets.
The revelation comes a few weeks after HAL chairman and managing director remarked that Nigeria had zeroed in on the Tejas for the program.
“I am very confident about it unless some political shift takes place,” HAL’s R Madhavan said when asked about the chances of Tejas clinching the deal.
“It (the negotiation) is almost in the final stages. We are the only country offering them the support for their aircraft; we are the only one who can support them to the extent they require for the fleet.”
Nigeria is the latest country to reject HAL Tejas. On top of that, Argentina and Malaysia have rejected the HAL Tejas.
Meanwhile, Global Business Press quoted a Leonardo official, the manufacturer of M-346FA, as saying, “Nigeria is in advanced talks with us. The two countries believe that bilateral cooperation in the defense industry can become a symbol of mutual trust and a robust strategic partnership.”
The outlet wrote that NAF chief Hassan Abubakar seemed impressed with the Italian aircraft, calling it a “reliable platform based on good reputation.”
Nigeria has signed up to purchase 24 Fighter Attack versions of the Leonardo M-346FA jet trainer, an official with the country’s air force confirmed in a TV interview. Ashibel Utsu, director for air force affairs with Nigeria’s Ministry of Defense, told the country’s TVC News on August 26.
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