The $1bn AH-1Z cobra attack helicopters, 12 of them, being procured from the United States by the Federal Government will reduce response time and significantly help the Nigerian Armed Forces to defeat terrorist forces in the country, an official of the United States Department of State, Andrew Strike, has said.
Strike, who is of the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs under the Department of State, explained in his response to an email enquiry by Punch that the helicopters would complement the 12 A-29 Tucano aircraft Nigeria bought from the US earlier.
He added that the helicopters would also provide essential night operations capability to counter terrorists who previously operated after dark with impunity.
Boko Haram insurgents and bandits already declared as terrorists by the Federal Government have been waging a war against the Nigerian state, especially in the northern region, killing innocent persons, carrying out mass abductions for ransoms, destroying properties, disrupting public peace, all of which have taken their toll on the economy.
The Defence Security Cooperation Agency in a statement titled, ‘Nigeria – AH-1Z Attack Helicopter Related FMS (Foreign Military Sales) Acquisitions’, on April 14 said the Department of State had cleared the sale of the helicopters to Nigeria and that as required by law, Congress had been notified of the possible transaction.
In his email response on Tuesday to an enquiry on the expected time of delivery and the possible conditions that would be attached to the usage of the helicopters like they did the Tucano aircraft, Strike said only the military could speak on the timelines but that the US would always insist on the respect for human rights.
Speaking on the operational capabilities of the helicopters, Strike stated, “This potential sale fulfils the Nigerian Armed Forces requirement for a close air support and quick mobility capability to defeat terrorist forces, protect humanitarian convoys, secure vital roads, decrease troop losses, defend vulnerable communities, and reduce the risk of civilian casualties.
“This potential sale complements Nigeria’s earlier purchase of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, delivered in 2021. They use the A-29s to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, as well as to directly engage terrorists.
“The AH-1Z helicopters will reduce response time to support ground forces and bring a degree of durability and survivability that will allow the Nigerian Air Force to engage at low altitudes and slow airspeeds while maintaining a standoff distance outside of the enemy weapons engagement zone. Additionally, US training and support will help ensure that Nigeria is able to effectively and responsibly use the capability and minimise risks of civilian harm.”
He noted further that the $997m, apart from covering the cost of the helicopters, would also include training, maintenance support and future life-cycle costs for Nigeria to operate and maintain the helicopters for some years to come.
He added, “Under this agreement, the Nigerian Armed Forces will spend $25m of case funds to continue their Air to Ground Integration programme, which is building the capability of the Nigerian Armed forces to more accurately carry out air strikes and minimise the risk of civilian casualties.
“This includes further developing and implementing professional targeting processes that are consistent with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
“Our training places an emphasis on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, and we regularly engage with the Nigerian government and security forces to promote transparent accountability for civilian casualty incidents and human rights violations.”
The DSCA statement in April indicated that the sale would include 28 T-700 GE 401C engines made by General Electric; 2,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System; Night Vision Cueing Display; Commercial Variant GPS with Standard Positioning Service, communication equipment; electronic warfare systems; AN/AVS-9 Aviator’s Night Vision Imaging System; M197 20mm machine gun; Target Sight System; support equipment; spare engine containers; spare and repair parts; tools and test equipment.