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Africa’s skies are abuzz with the roar of fighter jets, and at the heart of the action is Nigeria, caught in a fascinating duel between India’s Tejas Mk1A and China’s JF-17. This contest for Nigeria’s favour transcends mere aircraft sales; it’s a strategic tango with far-reaching implications for regional dynamics and global power plays.

Nigeria’s Air Force (NAF) seeks a replacement for its ageing fleet of Chinese-supplied Chengdu F-7s, copies of the MiG-21. They need a versatile platform, a potent successor to tackle security threats and assert regional influence. Enter the Tejas Mk1A and JF-17, both vying for this lucrative contract.

India’s Tejas Mk1A boasts numerous advantages. Its lightweight agility promises nimble manoeuvring, crucial for counter-insurgency and border patrol missions. Its indigenous avionics and weapons platforms offer greater control and flexibility. Moreover, India’s offer of credit lines with low-interest rates adds financial allure. NAF officials have been visibly impressed by the Tejas’ capabilities, with talks progressing steadily.

China’s JF-17 counters with its own set of enticements. Three JF-17 Block-II jets already grace the NAF inventory, familiarizing pilots and maintenance crews. Beijing now offers the upgraded Block-III variant, powered by indigenous WS-13 engines, reducing dependence on sanctions-hit Russia. They even propose upgrading existing planes or swapping them for brand new Block-III models, highlighting their recent push to secure further orders.

But this battle transcends mere specifications. China’s “covert offensive,” as you mention, may indicate strategic manoeuvring. Deepening ties with Nigeria aligns with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, expanding its economic and security footprint in Africa. For India, securing this deal bolsters its defence exports, showcasing domestic capabilities and establishing a foothold in a key African market.

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