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The Nigerian Air Force is looking to modernize its fleet by replacing its outdated Chengdu F-7NI fighter jets. To fill this gap, Nigeria has attracted interest from both China and India, each vying for a lucrative 15-jet contract.

Both contenders, the Indian LCA Tejas and the Pakistani JF-17 “Thunder,” are single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft. Nigeria already operates 3 JF-17s acquired in 2021, making expansion with this platform seem like a familiar choice.

However, India’s offer goes beyond just the aircraft. Sources at report that India has presented a more attractive financial package, including a Line of Credit with significantly lower interest rates compared to China’s typical 6-8% range for fighter jet deals.

While both aircraft are priced similarly (above $40 million per unit), the Tejas Mk1A boasts a key advantage. Its American F404 engine offers higher availability rates compared to the JF-17’s Russian RD-93 engines. Western sanctions on Russia have hampered spare parts availability for the RD-93, potentially impacting the JF-17’s operational readiness.

India’s commitment extends beyond the sale itself. They’ve offered to train Nigerian pilots at the IAF Training School, fostering a long-term defence relationship. Additionally, India proposes deploying HAL personnel to Nigeria for three years to assist ground crews in operating and maintaining the Tejas fleet.

Nigeria faces a tough decision. Familiarity with the JF-17 might seem advantageous, but India’s aggressive financing and superior engine technology are compelling counterpoints. The after-sales support package offered by India adds another layer of consideration. Ultimately, Nigeria must weigh the short-term comfort of acquiring more JF-17s against the long-term benefits of potentially more reliable Tejas jets backed by a comprehensive support structure. 

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