REINCARNATION: How the Biafran Baby returns to fight for Nigeria.


The Nigerian Civil war otherwise known as the Biafran war, (6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970), was a war fought to counter the secession of Biafra from Nigeria. The Biafrans were being pummeled by the newly delivered Ilyushin Il-28 and a MiG-17 of the Nigerian Air force, both aircraft causing massive devastation to the Biafran troops and civilians.

During the duration of the conflict, both side made use of mercenaries heavily but a more notable hired gun was Count Carl Gustaf Ericsson von Rosen a Swedish aviator and mercenary pilot. He flew relief missions in a number of conflicts as well as combat missions for Biafran rebels. He proposed a grand plan of using light aircraft like the MFI-9 to support ground troops and for other roles such as Reconnaissance and food aid drops.

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He and another mercenary like Lynn Garrison with a handful of Biafran Airmen managed to smuggle about Five MFI-9 light airplanes into Biafra. Carl Gustaf von Rosen, who realized that in a low intensity conflict even a few small, minimally armed aircraft are capable of having a significant impact.

Light aircraft are in any event more suitable for operation in the primitive conditions typical in such conflicts. Von Rosen was familiar with the military trainer version of the MFI-9, which was robust enough to be able to carry significant loads of ordnance suspended from hard points on the wings.


A number of MFI-9Bs had been constructed in hopes of a sale to the Swedish Air Force, but when the sale fell through, the aircraft became available at a low price. So in May 1969, von Rosen formed a squadron of five MiniCOINs to fight in the Nigerian Civil War on the side of the Biafran.

Von Rosen had the planes painted in camouflage colours and fitted with rockets, and proceeded with a band of friends to strike at the airfields from which the Nigerian Air Force launched their attacks against the civilian population in Biafra. On 22 May 1969, and over the next few days, Von Rosen and his five aircraft launched attacks against Nigerian airfields at Port Harcourt, Enugu, Benin and other small airports.

The Nigerians were taken by surprise and a number of expensive jets, including a few MiG-17 fighters and three of Nigeria's six Ilyushin Il-28 bombers, were destroyed on the ground.

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Lynn Garrison in a  modification of the MFI-9B military trainer variant of the MFI-9, adapted to carry weapons.
The MiniCOINs saw extensive service during most of the war, including the delivery of food aid drops. Garrison introduced a supply-dropping procedure learned in northern Canada. A bag of grain was enclosed in a larger bag before dropping; when the load hit the ground, the inner bag would rupture, while the outer bag contained the contents. Many lives were saved through air drops using this simple concept.
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Future upgrade of the MFI-9

Now count down to some few decades later the makers of the MFI-9 (Biafran Baby) light aircraft decided to upgrade it after studying how well it performed in the conflict. Renaming the new build aircraft as Saab- MFI 15. It was powered by a 119 kW Avco Lycoming IO-320-B2 flat-four engine and with a conventional low-set tailplane. The latter was later modified to a T-tail configuration to minimize damage when operating from rough airfields.
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MFI-15 safari with armanments

From MFI-15 SAFARI into the new MFI-17 MUSHAK

Seeing more potential for growth of the MFI-15 safari, the makers SAAB AERONAUTICS further developed an upgrade which they named the MFI-17 Mushshak. The Mushak has 6× under-wing, maximum external load 300 kg (660 lb) total which can be use to mount 7.62 mm machine gun pod, 75 mm unguided rocket pod (7 rounds, 68 mm unguided rocket pod (7 rounds) or wire-guided anti-tank missiles (ATGMs).

Birth of the SUPER MUSHSHAK and the Nigerian Air Force Acquisition

Following the constant spate of attack by the deadly  Boko Haram sect against the Nigerian populance, coupled with the inability of the Nigerian armed forces to successfully curtail their sinister activities largely due to the Air Forces old and worn out Ground Attack jets like the Alpha jet and Chinese made F-7s a copy of the venerable MiG-21 FishBeds.
Furthermore, the refusal by the United State Government to allow Brazil sell a ground attack turbo-prob aircraft well suited for this type of low intensity warfare propelled the government to seek help elsewhere.  Early this year, the Nigerian Government announce that it was buying the Super Mushak from Pakistan to complement the old Alpha Jets and also for basic pilot training.
The MFI-9 (Biafran Baby) has gone a long way from being a light utility airplane to a fully matured technology which has been properly armed to fight insurgents and counter terrorist activities (CTCOIN). When it finally lands in Nigerian only few people will ever realize that the old Biafran Baby has returned and now it is fully grown and ready to fight again but this time for the whole Nigeria.

Ekene Lionel

Techy, Futurist, Award-winning defense technology writer.