Military Wiki
Nigerian Air Force
Nigerian Air Force logo
Founded 18 April 1964
Country Nigeria
Size 261 aircraft
Headquarters Port Harcourt NAF Base
Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh
Roundel Roundel of Nigeria.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet, Aero L-39 Albatros
Fighter Chengdu F-7 Airguard
Patrol ATR 42 MP
Trainer Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet, MB 339A, L-39ZA Albatros
Transport Aeritalia G.222, SA 330H Puma, Lockheed C-130 Hercules

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is the air arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is one of the largest in Africa, consisting of about 10,000 personnel[1] and aircraft including 15 Chinese Chengdu F-7s, and 24 Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jets, armed helicopters, and military transport aircraft. Previous combat aircraft, including 32 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s, Sepecat Jaguars, and Russian made bombers have been withdrawn from use.


Although the Air Force was originally proposed in 1958, many lawmakers preferred to rely on the United Kingdom for air defence. But during peacekeeping operations in Congo and Tanganyika, the Nigerian Army had no air transport of its own, and so in 1962 the government began to recruit cadets for pilot training in various foreign countries, with the first ten being taught by the Egyptian Air Force.

The Nigerian Air Force was formally established on 18 April 1964 with the passage of the Air Force Act 1964 by the National Assembly. The Act stated that the 'Nigerian Air Force shall be charged with the defence of the Federal Republic by air, and to give effect thereto, the personnel shall be trained in such duties as in the air as well as on the ground.[2] " The NAF was formed with technical assistance from West Germany. The air force started life as a transport unit with aircrew being trained in Canada, Ethiopia and India. The head of the German Air Force Assistance Group (GAFAG) was Colonel Gerhard Kahtz, and he became the first commander of the NAF. The nucleus of the NAF was thus established with the formation of the Nigerian Air Force headquarters at the Ministry of Defence.

The air force did not get a combat capability until a number of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 aircraft were presented by the Soviet Union during the Nigerian Civil War. On 13 August 1967, following several damaging attacks by Biafran aircraft, the USSR started delivering first MiG-17s from Egypt to Kano IAP, simultaneously sending a large shipment aboard a Polish merchant.[3] Initially two MiG-15UTIs (NAF601 and NAF 602), and eight MiG-17s (NAF603 to NAF610) were supplied to Nigeria.[4] Later six Il-28 bombers, flown by Egyptian and Czech pilots, were delivered from Egypt and stationed at Calabar and Port Harcourt, and, the Air Combat Information Group says, 'were used to bomb military and civilian targets indiscriminately'.[3]

In July 1971 the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that Nigeria had 7,000 air force personnel and 32 combat aircraft: six Ilyushin Il-28 medium bombers, eight MiG-17s, eight Aero L-29 Delfín jet trainers, and 10 P-149D trainers.[5] Other aircraft included six C-47s, 20 Do-27/28s, and eight Westland Whirlwind and Alouette II helicopters.

During the 1970s, Nigeria bought Lockheed C-130 Hercules from the United States. Six were acquired, and officers reportedly received US$3.6 million dollars in kickbacks, compared to a total purchase price of $45 million.[6]

25 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21MFs and six MiG-21UM were delivered in 1975. Three were lost in accidents, and one is preserved as a gate guard at Abuja air base. All were put into storage in the 1990s due to lack of spares and finance. Jimi Peters writes: '..the 1975-1980 NAF development plan restructured NAF ..formations' into group (air force) level units that reported to air force headquarters. That structure, he went on, was found too cumbersome, and thus two intermediate command (military formation)s were formed in 1978: NAF Tactical Air Command and NAF Training Command.[7] From 1984 18 SEPECAT Jaguar fighters (13 Jaguar SNs & 5 Jaguar BNs) were delivered and operated from Makurdi. They were retired in 1991.[8] Nigeria purchased 24 Aero L-39 Albatros armed jet trainers in 1986-87 and tried to obtain 27 more in 1991 but the International Monetary Fund vetoed the purchase. It also prevented a 1994 purchase of 7 Pilatus PC-7's despite approval by the government of Switzerland.

On 26 September 1992, a NAF Lockheed C-130H Hercules serial number 911 crashed three minutes after take-off from Lagos, Nigeria, when three engines failed, possibly due to high take-off weight. All 158 people on board were killed, including 8 foreign nationals.[9]

Twenty-first century

A Nigerian Air Force Chengdu F-7 taking off

In 2005 it was reported that Nigeria has approved $251 million USD to purchase 15 Chengdu F-7 fighters from China. The deal includes 12 F-7NI (NI = Nigeria) single seat fighters, and 3 FT-7NI dual-seat trainers.[10] The $251 ($252?) million package included $220 million for 15 aircraft, plus $32 million for armaments, including 20 live PL-9C AAM, 10 training PL-9 rounds, unguided rockets, and 250/500 kg bombs. Nigerian pilots began their training in China in 2008, with delivery of the aircraft to begin in 2009.[11] Nigeria had previously considered a $160 million deal to refurbish its fleet of MiG-21's by Aerostar/Elbit Systems, IAI, and RSK MiG. However, with the new F-7 purchase, the government of Nigeria has decided to suspend the refurbishment option and grounded its fleet of MiG 21's.

In September 2009 it was reported that U.S. Air Forces Africa and 118th Airlift Wing personnel had managed to make one of the Air Force's C-130s flyable again, and that it would be dispatched to Germany for further repairs.[12]

On March 22, 2011, Air Commodore Yusuf Anas told The Associated Press that a Chinese-made F7 fighter crashed near Kano Airport. Anas said the pilot died in the crash and no other details were provided. So far all three of the F7 trainers have crashed and been written off.

On 24 March 2011, the new Air Officer Commanding of NAF Mobility Command, Air Vice Marshall John Aprekuma, said the newly established Air Force Mobility Command headquarters in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State is part of the Federal Government's strategy to protect its socio-economic interest in the Niger Delta. He said also that the presence of the command's headquarters would bring about development to the people of the state because the Nigerian Air Force is a disciplined and result-oriented military organisation.[13]

On 9 December 2011, the Nigerian Air Force will on get its first female pilot, Cadet Blessing Liman. The inclusion of women in the training followed a directive by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Command structure

The organization of the air force has been fashioned to meet current requirements of the service and the defence needs of the country. Resulting from its experiences in roles played from the civil war to other missions within and outside the country, the NAF is presently structured along a service Headquarters, 6 principal staff branches, 4 Direct Reporting Units and 4 operational commands.

The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) is the principal adviser to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff, on air related defence matters. Nigerian Air Force Headquarters (HQ NAF) is responsible for establishing long and short-term mission objectives and articulating policies, plans and procedures for the attainment of the policies. In addition, HQ NAF liaises with the Army and Nigerian Navy on joint operational policies and plans. HQ NAF consists of the office of the Chief of the Air Staff and 6 staff branches namely; Policy and Plans Branch, Operations Branch, Logistics Branch, Administration Branch, Inspections Branch and Air Secretary Branch. Each of the branches is headed by an Air Officer.

  • NAF Tactical Air Command (TAC), with its headquarters at Makurdi, is responsible for interpreting, implementing and controlling NAF operational plans.
64 Air Defence Group (ADG) Ikeja
75 Strike Group (75 STG)
81 Air Maritime Group (81 AMG), Benin
88 Military Airlift Group (88 MAG), Ikeja (C-130)
97 Air Special Operations Group (97 SOG), Port Harcourt
99 Air Weapon School (99 AWS) Kainji
33 Logistics Group, Makurdi (Makurdi Airport?)
NAF Hospital, Makurdi
  • NAF Training Command (TC), located at Kaduna, is chiefly responsible for implementing NAF training policies. Ground training is also provided for support services and technical personnel.[14] Seemingly headed by Air Vice Marshal Isiyaku Umar since November 2012.[15]
301 Flying Training School, Kaduna (Old Kaduna Airport)[16]
303 Flying Training School, Kano
305 Flying Training School, Enugu.
320 Technical Training Group, Kaduna
325 Ground Training Group, Kaduna
330 NAF Station, Jos
333 Logistics Group, Kaduna
335 Base Services Group, Kaduna
345 Aeoromedical Hospital, Kaduna
NAF Hospital, Jos
The Aeoromedical Centre Project at Kaduna
  • NAF Logistics Command (LC), headquartered at Ikeja, Lagos, is tasked to procure, maintain and sustain equipment in a state of operational readiness and at a minimum cost consistent with NAF mission requirements.
401 Aircraft Maintenance Depot (401 ACMD), Ikeja
403 Electronic Maintenance Depot (403 EMD), Shasha
405 Central Armament Depot (405 CAD), Makurdi
407 Equipment Supply Depot (407 ESD), Ikeja
435 Base Service Group (435 BSG), Ikeja
445 NAF Hospital (445 NAF Hospital), Ikeja
  • NAF Mobility Command headquarted at Yenagoa, was established in 2011. It has seven units spread across Lagos, Kwara (Illorin), Cross Rivers (Calabar) and Delta (Warri) states as well as Abuja and Bayelsa (Yenagoa). The Mobility Command has been given the responsibility to perform the airpower roles of tactical and strategic airlift in support of government and military operations.
  • Detachments, Wings and Forward Operational Bases include:
61 NAF Detachment, Warri
NAF Detachment, Minna
204 Wing, Maiduguri
227 Wing, Ilorin
NAF Calabar (FOB)
NAF Ibadan (FOB)
NAF Sokoto (FOB)



A Nigerian Air Force Aero L-39 Albatros taxiing to the runway

A Nigerian Air Force Boeing 737-7N6

A Nigerian Air Force British Aerospace BAe-125-800B

Alpha Jet A

Aircraft Origin Type In service Notes
Fighter Aircraft[17]
Chengdu F-7 Airguard  China Multi role fighter 12 10 F-7NI, 2 FT-7NI.
3 lost to crashes.[18]
Trainer Aircraft[17]
Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet  European Union Trainer/ light attack 13 24 delivered, 4 upgraded 2011.
9 re-activated in 2013.[19]
1 crashed on 7 May 2013 over Niger.[20][21]
Aermacchi MB-339  Italy Trainer/ light attack - 12
Aero L-39 Albatros  Czechoslovakia Trainer/ light attack 17
Transports / Maritime Patrol[17]
Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules  USA Heavy transport 5
Alenia G.222  Italy Medium transport 5
Dornier Do 228  Germany Light transport 6
ATR 42MP  European Union Maritime surveillance 2 NAF 930 & NAF 931 are both replacing 2 x Fokker F27 200-MAR
Agusta A 109  Italy Light utility transport 7
Agusta AW 109 LUH  Italy Light utility transport 6 7 ordered. One lost to crash.
Agusta AW-139  Italy VIP transport 1
Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma  France Medium transport helicopter 5
Eurocopter AS 332 Super Puma  France Medium transport helicopter 3
Mil Mi-35 Hind  Russia Attack helicopter 8.[Note 1] 3 on order 2013
Mil Mi-171SH  Russia Medium transport helicopter 3 6 on order 2013
Mil Mi-34 Hermit  Russia Light utility helicopter 12
Robinson R66  USA Light utility helicopter 2 [22]
VIP Transport[17]
Boeing 737  USA VIP Transport 1
Gulfstream II  USA VIP transport 1
Gulfstream 550  USA VIP transport 1
Dassault Falcon 7X  France VIP transport 2
Scottish Aviation Bulldog T1  United Kingdom Light trainer 37 ?
BAe 125  United Kingdom Medium transport 3
MBB Bo 105  Germany Light attack/trainer helicopter 24
Dornier Do 28  Germany Light transport 36
Dornier Do 27  Germany Light transport 20
Hughes 300  USA Light utility helicopter 14
Van's Aircraft RV-6A  USA Basic trainer 60 ?

Rank structure

The NAF's rank structure is similar to the British Royal Air Force's rank structure from where its ranks were derived.


In descending order of importance the NAF officer ranks are:


In descending order of importance the NAF airman ranks are:



  1. One lost on May 9, 2013. Air Forces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. July 2013. pp. 28. 


  1. IISS Military Balance 2009, p.314
  2. History of The Nigerian Air Force
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tom Cooper, Civil War in Nigeria (Biafra), 1967-70, Air Combat Information Group, accessed December 2012.
  4. Tom Cooper
  5. IISS Military Balance 1971/72, 37.
  6. J. Kayode Fayemi, 'Threats to Military Expediture and National Security,' PhD dissertation, King's College London, 1993, cited in Herbert Howe, 'Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States,' Lynne Rienner, 2005, 41. See also 'The Arms Bazaar,' and Lockheed bribery scandals.
  7. Jimi Peters, 'The Nigerian Military and the State,' Volume 4, p.147, note 33 citing unclear source.
  8. [1]
  9. Accident description for Lockheed C-130H Hercules NAF911 Lagos at the Aviation Safety Network
  11. AllAfrica
  12.'s Defence Weekly, 2 September 2009
  13. Igoniko Oduma, Nigeria: Why FG Established Air Force Command in Bayelsa -Air Force Chief, Daily Independent (Lagos), 24 March 2011.
  14. See
  16. See also
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4, World Air Forces 2011-2012, p.20-21
  19. Martin Air International November 2012, p. 86.
  20. Nigeria military pilots die during Mali mission (BBC)
  21. Aviation Safety Network ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 155801
  22. Mornington-Sanford, Richard. "Nigerian Air Force take delivery of their first two Robinson R66 (Turbine) helicopters". Mornington Sanford Aviation. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 


  • Michael I. Draper and Frederick Forsyth, Shadows: Airlift and Airwar in Biafra and Nigeria 1967-1970 (Howell Press, 2000) ISBN 1-902109-63-5
  • Martin, Guy. "Nigerian Regeneration". Air International. Vol 83 No 5, November 2012. pp. 84–89. ISSN 0306-5634.
  • Sampson, A. (1977) The Arms Bazaar: From Lebanon to Lockheed, Viking, ISBN 978-0-670-13263-8
  • World Aircraft Information Files. Brightstar Publishing, London. File 338 Sheet 01

External links

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