The Nigerian Air Force said yesterday that the long-awaited first batch of six A29 Super Tucano aircraft, ordered by the federal government from the United States, were on their way to Nigeria.
The fighter jets, bought following the award of a $329 million foreign military sales contract to SNC by the United States government to build 12 A-29s for the Nigerian Air Force in November 2018, are expected to fly through five countries, notably Canada, Spain, Greenland, Iceland and Algeria before arriving in Nigeria.
The jet fighters were billed for delivery to Nigeria between 2021 and 2022. The air force, in earlier statements, had said six of the fighter aircraft were to be delivered by July while the remaining six would be in Nigeria by December.
The air force had also completed construction of a hangar in Jaji, Kaduna State, where the attack aircraft would be domiciled.
A delegation of the House of Representatives had some weeks ago visited the United States to ascertain the state of the fighter jets.
The delegation had raised questions over the delay in the delivery of the fighter jets.
A statement by the Nigerian Air Force Headquarters said the first batch of the fighter jets departed the United States on Wednesday.
The statement by NAF spokesman, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, said:
“The first batch of six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft has departed the United States of America on Wednesday, 14 July 2021, enroute Nigeria.
“The six aircraft will be leapfrogged through five countries, including Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Spain and Algeria, before arriving their final destination in Nigeria towards the end of July 2021.
“An official induction ceremony of the aircraft into the inventory of the Nigerian Air Force is already being planned at a later date in August, to be announced in due course.”
Gabkwet told THISDAY that the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, was in the US to meet with pilots before they took off.
It was gathered that the path taken by the fighter jets was designed to avoid the Atlantic Ocean route, a distance not usually flown by fighter aircraft.