WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The Nigerian Air Force has armed two of the four Dassault Aviation-made Alpha jets it procured from the United States in 2015.
Prior to arming the jets, the planes purchased from the United States could not be used in combat operations due to their inability to carry weapons. Instead, the jets were designated for training purposes.
DefenceWeb reports the planes were armed with a 68mm SNEB rocket launcher pod and a 250kg unguided bomb.
Nigerian Air Force spokesman Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa says the force looked for assistance from foreign companies to configure the jets for combat, but later decided using its own team was a more cost-effective solution.
"The model worked on the ground, and has since been mounted on the Alpha Jets, and test flown successfully," Famuyiwa said. "This feat is a major research and development breakthrough for the NAF and the nation as a huge foreign exchange saver, given the project only cost about N400,000 [$2,000]."
The arming of the Nigerian Air Force Alpha jets comes as the force moves to overhaul and modify its aircraft to support its fight against Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group based in Nigeria. Local vehicle manufacturer IVM is supporting the overhaul procedures by providing technical support.
"Beyond the feat, the NAF is poised to exploit the possibilities of mass producing the Alpha Jet break assembly and other parts locally by partnering with IVM, as well as other credible organizations, to build own capacity for enhanced self-reliance," Chief of Air Staff Air Vice Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar said.