GABORONE — The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has taken delivery of the first four out of 10 MFI-17 Super Mushshak primary trainer aircraft ordered from the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), five months after the two parties signed a supply and delivery agreement.

The light trainer aircraft were handed over to NAF Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar by PAC chairman Arshad Malik and Pakistani Air Force (PAF) Chief of Air Staff Air Marshall Sohail Aman on Monday in a ceremony that was held at the Kaduna Air Force base on Monday.

They were commissioned into service four days after delivery to Kaduna on Dec. 1. According to the supply contract signed in June this year, the PAC would also provide technical training to the NAF teams charged with operating and maintaining the aircraft.

"We are very happy with this deal and we are hopeful that it will help us to open up new markets elsewhere. This contract includes the provision (to Nigeria) of operational training and technical support by the Pakistani Air Force," Malik said.

Flight training and aircraft maintenance crews from the PAF are expected to set up relevant facilities in Abuja shortly. The four are part of a batch of eight that will be loaned to Nigeria until the delivery of its aircraft order.

Four more on-loan aircraft would be delivered to Nigeria in early 2017. By mid-2017, the loaned aircraft would be replaced with new assets, which are already under assembly.

The four have since been commissioned into service at the 301 Flight Training School in Abuja, replacing an aging fleet of Dana Air Beetle trainer variants which has been in service since 1995.

Apart from Nigeria, four Super Mushshak trainers are in service with the Pakistani Air Force. Global interest in the Super Mushshak soared in 2016 with Qatar signing a deal for the supply of eight in May.

Late in November, the Turkish Air Force signed a memorandum of understanding that set the groundwork for acquisition of up to 52 trainers. Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are also reported to be interested in acquiring the aircraft.

A derivative of the Mushshak aircraft, the Super Mushshak is a version of the Saab MF-17 Supporter, which is produced in Pakistan under license from Sweden.

The latest version is powered by a 260 horsepower Textron Lycoming IO-540 V4A5 engine. It features a US-designed glass cockpit as well as environmental controls.

According to Abubakar, Nigeria will soon take delivery of four new, Russian-made Mi-35N attack helicopters from Russia and three JF-17 Thunder aircraft from Pakistan.

The West African country has also ordered at least three ex-Brazilian Air Force Super Tucano light-attack aircraft. A parallel aircraft-refurbishment program has led to the restoration and recommissioning of helicopters, which include three Mi-24V and Mi-35P attack variants, two EC-135s, two AugustaWestland A109s, and one Super Puma.

A single Beechcraft light aircraft, one Falcon jet, one Diamond DA-42 and two Dornier DO-228 maritime surveillance planes have also been restored and returned to service.

Abubakar said the new acquisitions are backed by a pilot and maintenance crew-training program. At least 70 NAF aviation officers are currently undergoing training in Russian, South African, Egyptian and British academies.

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