Two Cessna 525B CitationJet CJ3s, which have been modified for maritime security missions, are ready to enter Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) service as part of the Deep Blue Project.
This initiative is designed to help Nigerian authorities to combat insecurity in the nation’s maritime shipping corridors. The first aircraft to be delivered arrived at Ikeja Air Base – a part of Murtala Muhammed International Airport – in Lagos on May 12 and was welcomed by a water cannon salute. It was wearing the taped-on temporary Israeli test registration 4X-CML (c/n 525B-0293) and was formerly known as N328RC when registered with the Bank of Utah.
However, following its arrival, these temporary markings were peeled off, revealing Nigerian Air Force (NAF) markings and its new serial NAF957. The arrival of the second aircraft – registration 4X-CMJ (c/n 525B-0349), ex-D-CJET of Air Hamburg Private Jets – has yet to be confirmed. Both aircraft will be operated on NIMASA’s behalf by the NAF’s 107th Air Maritime Group at Benin City.
Israel’s Bird Aerosystems carried out the necessary conversion work needed to turn prepare these business jets for their new maritime surveillance role. The Israeli firm announced the contract for them on December 23, 2018, but at the time said only that the work was being done for an undisclosed African customer.
The two aircraft have been equipped with the company’s Airborne Surveillance, Information, and Observation (ASIO) and MSIS mission management systems. Although the overhaul and outfitting process was to have been carried out by subsidiary Bird Aviation Cyprus, complications caused by travel restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic led to them being moved to a Bird Aerosystems facility in southern Israel for the work to be completed.
Additionally, NIMASA has taken delivery of three AgustaWestland (now Leonardo Helicopters) AW109SP GrandNew helicopters as part of another element of the Deep Blue Project. These new rotorcraft comprise NN313 (c/n 22421), ex-CSX81988; NN314 (c/n 22424), ex-CSX81994; and NN315 (c/n 22425), ex-CSX81999. After being shipped by sea, the first two (NN314 and NN315) were unloaded at a Nigerian port on March 28, with the third (NN313) arriving at the end of April.
These helicopters will be flown by the Nigerian Navy on behalf of NIMASA. They will be based at Naval Air Station Ojo in Lagos state during their tenure with the African nation. On December 16, 2020, several Portuguese-made Tekever AR3 NET RAY shipborne unmanned aerial systems arrived at the Apapa dockyard in Lagos. These have also been acquired to support NIMASA’s Deep Blue Project.