Military Wiki
Place of origin  Biafra
Service history
In service 1967-1970
Used by  Biafra
 Nigeria (present day)
Wars Nigerian Civil War
Production history
Designer Gordian Ezekwe, Benjamin Nwosu, Willy Achukwe and others
Designed September 1967
Manufacturer Research and Production Organisation of Biafra (RAP)
Variants Various
Effective range 8,000 metres (8,700 yd)
Warhead weight 5kg-500kg[1]

Propellant Rocket propellant

Ogbunigwe also called Ojukwu Bucket refers to a series of weapons systems including command detonation mines, improvised explosive devices and rocket propelled missiles, mass-produced by the Republic of Biafra and used as tactical weapons against Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 in the Nigerian Civil War.[2][3][4]


At the outbreak of hostilities, the Biafran armed forces were poorly equipped as compared to the Nigerian army with arms and ammunition being in short supply. This imbalance in power was intensified in the course of the war. Biafran scientists, prominently from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (then University of Biafra), formed the Research and Production (RAP) Organisation of Biafra which included a Weapons Research and Production Group. It was the aim and purpose of this group to develop an indigenous arms industry and they soon started with the production of ammunition, grenades and armored cars. Their most effective and infamous product was the Ogbunigwe of which there were different types in various sizes.[5] The term Ogbunigwe later came to include grenades and landmines but initially referred to non guided rocket propelled surface-to-air missiles (specifically called flying Ogbunigwe) which were later converted to surface-to-surface missiles.[5] The engineers Gordian Ezekwe, Benjamin Nwosu, Willy Achukwe and others were instrumental in the design and production of the weapons.[6]

The first type of Ogbunigwe to be produced and tested in combat was the rocket propelled surface to surface missile. It was originally designed as a surface to air missile to be used in defense against Nigerian MiG-15 fighters marauding the Enugu airport.[7] Before the missile could be used successfully at its actual purpose as an anti aircraft missile, Nigerian troops captured Enugu where the missiles were being produced in October 1967. Following the fall of Enugu, a group of retreating Biafran soldiers were fighting rear guard action against a battalion of heavily armed Nigerian troops at the Ugwuoba bridge along the old Enugu-Awka road. As the ammunition of the Biafran troops was exhausted their commander ordered them, as a last resort, to adapt the use of the Ogbunigwe surface to air missile they were equipped with, by launching them horizontally at the enemy instead of vertically as designed for anti aircraft action. The effect was devastating and extensive.[7] As a result of this incident, the missile was converted and utilized for the rest of the war as a surface-to-surface missile, and as a surface-to-ship missile during the Second Invasion of Onitsha.[8] The name Ogbunigwe literally means "instrument that kills in multitudes" in the Igbo language.[9]

According to Biafran government claims at the time, the flying Ogbunigwe was the first rocket to be wholly designed, developed, mass-produced and launched in Africa.[10] It was used in combat in 1967, over one year before the launching of the first indigenous South African rocket in December 1968.[11]

At the height of production, about 500 units were being produced per day in Biafra.[12]


The Ogbunigwe mines and warheads generally had a killing range of between 180 meters and 800 meters,[12] an effective shrapnel radius of a 90° arc and could easily wipe out a company of enemy troops.[3] The self-propelled rocket versions had a missile range of 8 kilometers.[13] The weapons were annihilating for enemy infantry and armored vehicles.[2] Frederick Forsyth describes the use of the flying Ogbunigwe against an attack by the Nigerian army 1st division in 1969 as follows:

It spread death and destruction over a large area, and as usual the first division (...) were advancing in solid phalanxes of packed soldiery. An American who examined the scene afterwards estimated that, out of 6000 men who took part in the attack, 4000 failed to return.[3]

Ogbunigwe`s were used to spectacular and devastating effect in the Abagana ambush which wiped out almost the entire Nigerian 2nd Division in 1968.[14] They were also used effectively in knocking out Nigerian Army Saladin and Ferret armoured cars.[3][13] The Surface-to-air models were used against mercenary flown Nigerian Air Force Mig 17 jet fighters in the defense of Uli airport.[13] The lack of a guidance system made the missiles notoriously inaccurate against fast flying jet aircraft.[15] The design was based on an air burst principle intended to destabilize the plane by shock wave effect, as well as throw shrapnel and debris in its path to clog up the engines.[16] Though some close calls are reported by Russian pilots flying for the Nigerian Air Force, there are no indications that a Biafran missile actually shot down an enemy plane.[13] The Biafran Air Force B-25 and B-26 bombers were also fitted with self made Ogbunigwe rockets and bombs.[17]

Ogbunigwe was the most effective Biafran weapon during the war and the Nigerian forces were not able to find an efficient defense against it. Well placed mines or rocket salvos coordinated by few determined soldiers were often enough to stop an entire Nigerian advance. The Ogbunigwe in its various forms was able to influence the outcome of many battles.[18]

According to Chinua Achebe and Vincent Chukwemeka,

Ogbunigwe bombs struck great terror in the hearts of many a Nigerian soldier and were used to great effect by the Biafran Army throughout the conflict...when the history of this war comes to be written, the Ogbunigwe and the shore batteries will receive special mention as Biafras greatest saviours. We have been able to wipe out more Nigerians with Ogbunigwe than with any imported weapon.[19]

As recently as 2010 unexploded ordnance left over from the war recovered and destroyed by Nigerian clearing operations included 646 pieces of live Ogbunigwe bombs and 426 other improvised explosive devices in areas that were formerly Biafra.[20]


Though the initial Ogbunigwe was a rocket propelled ground to air missile, later in the war, all Biafran produced explosive devices became known as Ogbunigwe or Ojukwu bucket in popular language. Some of the specific types of Ogbunigwe that can be identified in the literature include the following;[21]

  • Flying Ogbunigwe (rocket): multi purpose non guided rocket propelled missile, initially intended as ground-to-air missile, later converted for use as ground-to-ground, ground to ship missile and Anti-tank missile.[5][12][15][22] Although produced in different sizes and calibers, the missiles were generally about 2 meters long, 33 cm in diameter, electrically ignited, propelled by rocket fuel and launched from a specially constructed launch pad or stand. They carried a conventional high explosive warhead with a design based on the Munroe effect.[3][16][18] Smaller calibers were mounted for launch in series on platforms similar to the Russian Katyusha rocket launcher (Stalin`s organ) and used by the Biafrans in place of artillery.[23]
  • Foot Cutter Ogbunigwe (Landmine): inter-spaced, Knee high lead pipes filled with explosives and shrapnel detonated electrically.[5][19]
  • Bucket Ogbunigwe (landmine): cone filled with explosives and shrapnel, triggered by wire or command detonated.[3][5][15]
  • Coffin box Ogbunigwe (landmine): larger version of the bucket Ogbunigwe.[5]
  • Beer Ogbunigwe (grenade): a bottle filled with shrapnel and explosives, detonates on impact.[5]


  1. Eze, Smart (2010). My Four Worlds. p. 215. ISBN 9781452098135. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The IED in Nigeria Part 1- The Strategic Perspective". West African Security and Risk Management. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Forsyth, F. (2015). The Biafra Story: The Making of an African Legend. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781848846067. 
  4. Nkwocha, O (2010). The Republic of Biafra : Once Upon a Time in Nigeria : My Story of the Biafra-Nigerian Civil War - A Struggle for Survival (1967-1970). Bloomington, Ind.: Authorhouse. p. 273. ISBN 9781452068657. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Umoh, Ubong Essien (2011). "The Making of Arms in Civil War Biafra, 1967-1970". p. 348. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  6. Achebe, Chinua (2012). There was a Country. Penguin. ISBN 9780141973678. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kalu, Vincent. "3 decades after, military engineer chronicles wonders of Biafran Ogbunigwe (missile)". Archived from the original on 23 December 2015. 
  8. Madiebo, Alexander A. (1980). The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War (Repr. ed.). Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publ.. p. 203. ISBN 9789781561177. 
  9. Uzoigwe, G.N. (18 July 2014). "Review:The Biafran War: The Struggle for Modern Nigeria". Archived from the original on 23 December 2015. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  10. Okolo, Amechi (2010). The State of the American Mind: Stupor and Pathetic Docility Volume II. Xlibris Corporation. p. 715. ISBN 9781477179734. 
  11. "The first rocket to be wholly developed and manufactured in South Africa is successfully launched from the new rocket launching". 17 December 1968. Archived from the original on 24 December 2015. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Gould, Michael (2011). The Struggle for Modern Nigeria: The Biafran War 1967-1970. ISBN 9780857730954. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Venter, Al J. (2010). Barrel of a gun misspent moments in combat : a war correspondent's view from the frontlines. Havertown, Pa.: Casemate. p. 147. ISBN 9781612000329. 
  14. Baxter, Peter (2014). Biafra The Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970.. Helion & Co Ltd. p. 50. ISBN 9781909982369. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 STAFFORD, Major US Army, Michael (1 April 1984). "Quick Kill In Slow Motion: The Nigerian Civil War". Marine Corps Command and Staff College. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Omoigui, Nowa. "Nicknames, Slogans, Local and Operational Names Associated with the Nigerian Civil War". Archived from the original on 26 December 2015. 
  17. Atofarati Major NA, Abubakar. "The Biafran War, Nigerian History, Nigerian Civil War". US Marine Command & Staff College. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Oyewole, Fola (1975). "Scientists and Mercenaries". pp. 59. Digital object identifier:10.2307/2935065. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Osakwe, C.; Udeagbala, L. (2014). "Owerri in the Nigerian Civil War". 
  20. "Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor". Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  21. Igbeaku, Orji (30 January 2015). "Preserving memories of civil war". New Telegraph. Archived from the original on 23 December 2015. 
  22. Nwafor-Ejelinma, Ndubuisi (2012). Ndi-igbo of Nigeria Identity Showcase.. Trafford on Demand Pub. pp. 166. ISBN 9781466938922. 
  23. "Lebendig begraben". Der Spiegel (German). 1 July 1968. Retrieved 25 December 2015. 

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).