‘If the enemy is in range, so are you.’– Infantry Journal-
A recently released French Military declassified document showed that contrary to general opinion, the airspace of west Africa has been busy with several air combat maneuvers and counter-maneuvers. According to the document, Nigerian Air Force warplanes heading towards N’Djamena has been intercepted and forced to turn back several times by the combined Air Forces of Chad and France which are stationed in the N’Djamena international airport.
The report said that the first encounter occurred around February this year at the height of the Nigerian anti-Boko Haram offensive. Chadian fighter jets conducting aerial patrol of the country detected a pair of Nigerian Air Force Alpha jets making a ‘very low high-speed approach‘ direct flight towards the countries capital N’Djemena, although this is not the first time such flight has been detected but it always occur at the border region of both countries. At the detection, Chadian Air Defense alerted the intruders to steer clear of the capital which was not heeded to until a pair of Chadian Air Force MiG-29 was directed towards them after several warnings which they immediately dis-engaged.
Similarly, the French Air Force components stationed in Chad had to intercept and force back a Nigerian Air Force ATR-42 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft spying at Chadian/ French airbase located at the capital’s airport on February when the spy-plane was circling around the capital without authorization by the Government. The spy-plane was at extreme altitude and the Chadian Air Force MiG-29 could not be called on due to it was undergoing a major maintenance and re-fit. After the incident, the Chadian Ministry of Defense immediately lodged an official protest against the airspace violation to it’s Nigerian counterpart through a phone call.
The third incident occurred when two Mi-24 hind assault helicopters of the Nigerian Air Force conducting an anti-terrorism maneuvers entered Chadian territory while chasing some terrorists without proper authorization from the Chadian Government. Shortly after they were detected and ordered to leave two other unknown alpha jets were detected at low level and in high speed heading towards the same direction the hinds went. Two French Air Force component Mirage F1 was immediately sent to intercept the Alpha jets out of Chads airspace, even after visual identifications and several radio calls the alpha jets continued with their flight.
Moments later two other aircrafts was detected by the Chadian/ French air defense station violating the airspace. This new contacts were of extreme high speed that only a fighter jet could attain. Alarmed by this massive airspace violation two more Mirage F1s was sent to identify the two new contacts and ward them off Chadian territory. After visually identifying them as Nigerian Air Force F-7s, the French Air component F1s immediately conducted a quick intercept and warned the F-7s to break its approach and egress which they refused until the hinds and alpha jets left safely out of Chadian airspace that the F-7s allowed itself to be escorted out of the airspace.
The Chadian Air Force has no suitable aircraft at that time for its aerial defense and had to rely on the French Air Force Mirage F-1s for its air defense. Although, The Chadian Military and the Nigerian Air Force has an agreement which allow for easy entrance into each other country but with tacit approval from the country such as when Cameroonian Air Force Alpha jets went into Nigeria during the air combat part of it’s ‘Operation Thunder I, II and III‘. It was not known why the Nigerian Air Force did not seek approval before entering Chadian Airspace or what their objective could be.
Their has been other minor trespassing but it only occurs at the border region. The Nigerian Air Force is undoubtedly the best, strongest and most powerful in West Africa due to it’s immerse size in men and equipment. The French Ministry of Defense has urged calm between the two nations and advised the Nigerian Air Force to be open with communications since both countries are allies in the fight against terrorism.