Nigerian military missiles: an overview

Nigerian military missile capability systems are quite few and sparingly used, for decades, in fact, Nigeria’s utilization of missiles operationally has been largely kept out of the public eyes.

What is a missile?

In military parlance, a missile is a guided airborne projectile capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor. Missiles have four system components: targeting/guidance system, flight system, engine, and warhead.

nigerian military otomat missile

Types of missiles

Conventional guided missiles

  • Air-to-air missile
  • Air-to-surface missile
  • Anti-radiation missile
  • Anti-ballistic missile
  • Anti-satellite weapon
  • Anti-ship missile
  • Anti-submarine missile
  • Anti-tank guided missile
  • Land-attack missile
  • Shoulder-launched missiles
  • Surface-to-air missile
  • Surface-to-surface missile
  • Wire-guided missile

Cruise missiles

  • Air-launched cruise missile
  • Ground-launched cruise missile
  • Submarine-launched cruise missile

Ballistic missiles

  • Tactical ballistic missile
  • Short-range ballistic missile
  • Theatre ballistic missile
  • Medium-range ballistic missile
  • Intermediate-range ballistic missile
  • Intercontinental ballistic missile
  • Submarine-launched ballistic missile
  • Air-launched ballistic missile

Nigerian military missile capabilities

Most of Nigeria’s military missiles no longer have any military relevance due to obsolescence and age and as such has been subsequently destroyed by the military. On July 23, 2016, The Nigerian Army Ordnance Corps completely destroyed obsolete and unserviceable ammunition belonging to the Nigerian Navy, at the Ikeja Cantonment Ammunition Transit Dump (ATD).

The weapons destroyed includes; Otomat Missiles, Seacat Missiles, Aspide Missiles, Anti Submarine Rockets, Torpedos, 500Ib Depth Chargers, 375mm Anti Submarine Squids and other high caliber munitions. The destruction was carried in an exercise code-named Exercise Ground Thunder.

Even though Nigeria has successfully built an indigenous defense industry, the country is yet to design or manufacture any missile system unlike its southern neighbor, South Africa which now boasts of a truly world-class defense industry although, a lack of local patronization is hindering further growth.

Nigeria Navy missile capability

Nigerian military missile capability was truly unveiled when the Nigerian Navy acquired the NNS Aradu – a MEKO 360 class guided missile frigate. During its commissioning, NNS Aradu immediately introduced a new class of formidable warship to the African naval make-up, bringing to the table, eight Otomat anti-ship missiles, and twenty-four Aspide surface to air missile.

Nigerian Navy NNS Siri, Combattante III-B Corvette firing an exocet missile during an exercise

Sadly, NNS Aradu was left to rot alongside at the Western Naval Command, Apapa, Lagos. for several decades due to lack of funds to keep her seaworthy. Only recently was the ship moved to a dry dock at the Naval Dockyard Limited in Victoria Island, Lagos for a refit but with a reduced capacity as a combat training and patrol ship.

Thus, with the loss of the NNS Aradu missile-carrying capacity, the Nigerian Navy is now left with no missile defense capability.

Nigerian Army missile capability

The Nigerian Army missile capability is centered on the service need for brigade-level and point air defense and anti-tank warfare.

Anti-tank warfare is provided by the Swing fire anti-tank guided missile while brigade-level air defense is provided sixteen Roland air defense system, likewise, point air defense is provided dozens of Strella 2 man-portable air defense system (MANPAD).

A Roland ADS launching a missile

To date, there is no known use of any of these systems except in exercises however, most are likely to be obsolete and defective since they are well past their service lifespan.

Nigerian Air Force missile capability

Compared to the other branches of the Nigerian military, the Air Force has the unique distinction of operating the most modern missiles in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Air Force missile capability revolves around its air-to-air combat operations and ground attack campaigns. The Nigeria Air Force utilizes its stock of the PL-9C air to air missile (AAM) mounted on its small fleet of Chengdu F-7 Airguard fighter jets used primarily for aerial interception of hostile aircraft.

in 2009, Nigeria acquired less than twenty PL-9C AAM as well as ten training models. The PL-9C is also expected to be fitted with the three JF-17 Thunder multirole jets set to be delivered in November 2020 by Pakistani PAC.

An AR-1 missile
A CASC AR-1 air-to-ground missile

For the Nigerian Air Force anti-tank and ground attack operations, two major missile systems takes the center stage; these are the AR-1 air-to-ground missile and the 9m120 Ataka anti-tank missile.

The AR-1 is the primary weapon armament of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) CH-3 Rainbow attack UAV which Nigeria procured five units in 2015. However, one was lost during a major combat operation.

On the other hand, the 9m120 Ataka anti-tank missile is the main missile for the Nigerian Air Force fleet of Mi-24v and Mi-35M Hind assault helicopters. The Nigerian fleet of Mi-24v and Mi-35M Hind has been steadily growing due to the ongoing counter-terror campaign in the northeastern region.

NAF Ordinance technician fixing a 9M120 Ataka missile onto aN Mi-35M pylon

Also, to further bolster the Air Force’s air-to-ground capability, the NAF is expecting some new Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) when the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano counterinsurgency aircraft is delivered in 2020.

The A-29 Super Tucano counterinsurgency aircraft will introduce a wide range of PGM’s including Laser-Guided Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), Paveway II laser-guided bomb tail kits, AGM-65 Maverick, and Roketsan Cirit. Although, only the Laser-Guided Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), Paveway II laser-guided bomb tail kits is confirmed for now.

List of Nigerian Military missiles

  • AR-1 air-to-ground missile
  • PL-9 AAM
  • Swingfire Anti-tank guided missile
  • Blowpipe Air defense system
  • Strela 2 MANPAD
  • Roland Air defense system
  • Otomat Anti-ship missile
  • Aspide Surface-to-air missile
  • 9K114 Shturm air-to-ground missile
  • Sea cat surface-to-air missile
  • Exocet anti-ship missile

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