Air Cdre Edward Gabkwet, the NAF’s Director of Public Relations and Information, said that the NAF’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Hasan Abubakar, had confirmed the delivery of the two new T129 ATAKs from Turkey and had said that the attack helicopters would soon be inducted into the NAF inventory, despite some sources indicating that they would join the Nigerian Army.
Air Marshal Abubakar – joined by Nigeria’s Minister of Defence Mohammed Badaru Abubakar – visited Turkey on October 29 “to facilitate the speedy delivery of the T129 ATAK helicopters acquired for the [NAF].” Whatever they said must have worked, with the delivery of the first pair following just three days later. The two men were photographed in front of the first pair of Nigerian T129s – one of which wore the serial NAF500. Both aircraft were painted in overall olive drab, rather than the three-tone camouflage favoured by Turkey. The national markings applied to the gunships comprised a small green and white roundel and a rectangular fin flash in the same colours.
These helicopters were the first two of six T129 ATAKs for the NAF, with two more set to be delivered before the end of 2023 and the remainder due to follow before Q2 2024. It has been reported that a follow-up order another six helicopters may be placed. Nigeria’s T129s will be operated by the NAF’s 115th Special Operations Group at NAF Base Port Harcourt.
Nigeria initially signed a contract for six T129 ATAK gunships from Turkish Aerospace Industries (TUSAŞ) in 2021. The first batch of 26 NAF pilots and maintenance personnel arrived in Ankara, Turkey, to train on the type in May 2023. The NAF currently operates some seven Mi-24V/P Hind-E/F and 17 Mi-35M/P Hind-E/F gunships and is attempting to acquire 12 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters as well as six T129s. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army is acquiring 12 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior Plus light attack/scout helicopters.