Nigerian Air Force all-weather and day-night MI-35M gunships intercepted and decimated a convoy of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) gun trucks in Mainok area of Borno State, Northeast Nigeria on Tuesday, HumAngle can report.
Since its delivery in December 2016, the MI-35M gunship has become an important part of the services escort, quick response and close air support missions in the Northeast – Lake Chad Basin.
The gunships, also known as SkyHawks were deployed sequel to intelligence reports indicating that insurgents in gun trucks were moving in the Jakana-Mainok axis.
HumAngle learnt that ISWAP has conducted a series of ambushes and attacks on civilians and military along that axis.
John Enenche, a Major General and the Defence Spokesman said the Air Task Force dispatched the gunships to engage the convoy of gun trucks and logistics vehicles.
He added that the helicopters delivered accurate hits in the target area, resulting in the destruction of three of the vehicles. Several of the terrorists were also killed in the process, Enenche added.
On the night of December 19, 2020, the MI-35M conducted a similar interception mission and destroyed a convoy of insurgents in about seven gun trucks in Borno State.
A total of five MI-35M gunships have been delivered and inducted into the Nigerian Air Force. But one of the aircraft crashed in January 2019 while providing close air support for troops of 145 Battalion in Damasak.
Five servicemen on board the MI-35M died in the mishap.
The Mi-35M can be used for landing or transporting up to eight personnel. It has modern navigation and avionics suite which features multi-function coloured displays and target sighting systems, including a thermal imager and laser rangefinder.
Although the Air Force has not disclosed future deliveries, the service ambition is expected to be around 12 MI-35M gunships.
In January 2020, a source in the Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation told Sputnik the remaining seven MI-35M were ready for delivery upon payment.
“Mi-35 helicopters for Nigeria are ready. As soon as the payment is received, we will send the helicopters. This is the plan. Five helicopters have been sold as of now,” the source said.
Steve Davis Ugba, Nigerian Ambassador to Russia in October 2019 hinted that defence cooperation between Moscow and Abuja was largely hindered by anti-Russian sanctions.
“Sanctions against Russia do not help this matter, as you can imagine. Russia is a reliable partner that always fulfils its obligations. We will agree on the delivery of the remaining Mi-35 helicopters, and then we will see what we can do as part of the law,” Ugba said.
HumAngle understands the anti-sanctions mentioned by the Ambassador is the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The Act places sanctions on the Russian defence industry, as well as customers of Russian defence firms.
Apart from MI-35M, the Nigerian Air Force operates MI-35p and MI-24v gunships deployed in different conflict theatres across the country.