Nigeria’s military airspace is set to become one of the most lethal in the entire continent. The Giant of Africa is set to be the first country in Africa and third in the world, after China and UAE, to operate the Wing Long II drone. She is also set to become the first African country to field the HQ-9.
As a testament of its lethality, China has deployed the HQ-9 to the South China Sea on Woody island for protection against American aircraft. In 2018, in the face of a big power competition, China deployed and installed the HQ-9 SAM in Zimbabwe to defend her vast economic interest in Zimbabwe.
All those deployments were strategic, however. The West and other powers were scrambling to move into Zimbabwe for business, while China was setting up diplomatically, wooing Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwe.
China deployed the HQ-9 SAM system at strategic locations all over Zimbabwe.
Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa are regarded as the African countries with the economic, demographic and technological means to defend themselves. And this is why they are always engaged via proxy.
Since 1986, the ROLAND Short Range Air Defence has been Nigeria’s primary air defence system. It was more or less a tactical battle field SAM and at that time adequate enough to defend Nigeria’s interest. There was simply no credible air threat to the Nigerian military.
Today, the strategic landscape has changed. Through share incompetence and a lack of diplomatic acumen, Nigeria has allowed itself to be surrounded on all sides.
This was unthinkable decades before. Nigeria would never have allowed its geopolitical foe tie a noose around its neck.
In 1992, following reports of Apartheid South Africa in talks for a naval base in Equatorial Guinea, General Babangida threatened Equatorial Guinea with an armed invasion, if it allowed its territory to be used as an aircraft carrier against Nigeria.
Under these circumstances, Nigeria would have brought its economic leverage to bear against any ECOWAS member state willing to host a foreign military power, especially the power that provided financial and technical aid to the separatists during the civil war.
Ever since the degradation of the Nigerian military was exposed to the outside world, especially when it could not fulfil its traditional role as regional policeman and lead as an ECOWAS intervention force in Mali, there has been a free for all in West Africa.
The francophone powers quickly seized this opportunity. After successfully pushing out Tuareg rebels, the French had no plans of leaving. They built a permanent military base, in Mali, Niger and Chad, within 12 months, consolidating their footprint in West Africa.
For the first time since the creation of ECOWAS, the Nigerian military is playing catch-up, and trying to regain her rightful position as the regional hegemon. This time around she is trying to emancipate francophone West Africa economically, by bringing them into her sphere of influence.
However, France has no intention of letting go without a fight. Not only did they hijack and derail the Single Currency Project ECO, they set up another military outpost in Guinea. They also have aircrafts that can hit any target in Nigeria within minutes because we were ignorant about them having as much as five military bases in ECOWAS, all encircling Nigeria.
Nigeria has always favoured the fire-brigade approach to doing things. Now that the government is under no illusion as to the motives of these great powers, especially with what they have done to Libya, and what they are trying to do to Egypt. The bizarre Morocco and later Tunisian application to join ECOWAS was nothing but a ploy to counter Nigeria’s economic influence in the region.
Nigeria is re-arming. The HQ-9 is a long-range air defence missile system with the capability to track and destroy aircraft, cruise missiles, and even tactical ballistic missiles. It is armed with a 180kg warhead, and it has a maximum speed of Mach 4.2, alongside a staggering range of 200km.
What this means is that the HQ-9 can take out targets from miles beyond Nigerian airspace, from launch sites in the northeast, and can hit targets at a staggering 30km altitude.
In October 2020, Cameroon announced its plan to acquire the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft missile system.
Chad, until now, operated the most sophisticated air defence system with the SA-6 Gainful SAM.
These countries acquired these SAM systems, because they could not hope to match Nigeria’s air power. So, they invested more in SAMs.
That aerial superiority has evaporated in the face of the French Mirage F1 and Rafale fighters in the region.
The Nigerian military is leveling the playing field by putting those aircrafts at risk even before entering Nigerian airspace.
For the Nigerian military, the era of complacency is over. For the first time, Nigeria is prioritising quality over quantity.Follow us on social media