The second batch of the A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets acquired by the federal government to boost the war against insurgency and banditry has reportedly departed the United States for Nigeria.
According to reports, a group of pilots flying the six A-29 aircraft from Georgia to Nigeria stopped over in the city of Worcester to refuel Wednesday night before taking off again on Thursday.
The United States Government had earlier promised that the six remaining A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets would arrive in Nigeria this month (September).
This is coming as the Nigerian Army said yesterday that its troops rescued a military officer, Major C. L. Datong, who was abducted by armed bandits in Kaduna.
Datong was abducted on August 24 from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna.
The six planes are designed for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions.
The first batch of the attack aircraft had earlier been delivered by the US and have since been inducted into the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) order of battle by President Muhammadu Buhari and United States government officials at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The military planes are unable to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and have opted for a North Atlantic route, hopping to multiple spots to refuel with Worcester being one of the places to stop over and refuel.
The initial six delivered by the US flew through five countries, including Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Spain, and Algeria before arriving at their final destination in Nigeria towards the end of July.
The planes refueled at Rectrix in the Worcester Regional Airport in the United States.
The A-29 Super Tucano, designed by the Sierra Nevada Corporation in Sparks, Nevada, are light attack aircraft to be deployed by the NAF in the fight against terrorism in the country.
Worcester Telegram reported that the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, a Worcester native, was in town for her high school reunion at Doherty Memorial High School.
Leonard decided to visit the pilots Thursday and see them off.
The planes were reportedly parked near the spot of the little hangar that Leonard’s father used to park his plane as a member of a pilot club in the city.
“It’s like I stood here before a very long time ago and now there are these planes that are related to my work in Nigeria,” Leonard said.
The planes are a part of the United States’ security partnership with the Nigerian government.
They are expected to land in Nigeria on or around September 24.
It would be recalled that the first batch of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft arrived in Kano on July 22.
The planes were received by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd); Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Faruk Yahaya and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao.
The first batch of fighter jets departed the United States on July 14, 2021.
NAF had also completed the construction of a hangar in Jaji, Kaduna State, where the attack aircraft would be domiciled.
Speaking at a joint media briefing in Abuja to herald the induction of the first batch of the planes, the United States Envoy to Nigeria, Leonard, and the Commander of the US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, Gen Jeffrey Harrigian, said the A-29 Super Tucano sale was the largest foreign military sale in Sub-saharan Africa.
Nigeria also has the largest International Military-Education and Training Sale in the sub-Saharan Training (IMET) programme in sub-Saharan Africa.
On the Super Tucano aircraft, General Harrigian said the delivery of the fighter planes was an opportunity for the US Air Force and Nigerian Air Force “to recommit ourselves and contribute to Nigeria’s stability. It brings about capabilities.
“It is an opportunity to work together in challenging times. The A -29 Super Tucano allows us to reconnect our relationship with Nigeria”, he said, while noting that the partnership would focus on intelligence sharing, maintenance, tactics, planning, contribution to skills set and other areas outside the military”.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Commander, US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, Gen Jeff Harrigian, had stated that “Nigerian Air Force is one of our key partners that play a critical role in furthering regional security and stability.
“This ceremony symbolizes the strength of our unique partnership and underscores the value of training and working together. The Super Tucanos were the impetus for the significant deepening of training and professional relationships”, he said.
He said precision targeting, air-to-ground integration, and human rights training are all included in the partnership between the U.S. and Nigeria.