The State Department has approved a possible sale to Nigeria of 12 high-tech attack planes and related equipment worth nearly $600 million, the Pentagon said Thursday.
“These aircraft will support Nigerian military operations against terrorist organizations Boko Haram and [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] West Africa, and Nigerian efforts to counter illicit trafficking in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a notice published Thursday. “Nigeria is an important partner in the U.S. national security goal to defeat ISIS, including its branches in Africa, and this sale is part of the U.S. commitment to help Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin countries in that fight.”
The Trump administration’s approval of the sale, which was rumored months ago, comes after the Obama administration put a hold on it amid accusations that Nigeria’s air force was bombing civilians.
The sale entails a dozen A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, according to the notice. The Super Tucano, made by contractor Sierra Nevada Corp., is a light attack plane designed for counter-insurgency, close air support and aerial reconnaissance missions.
The estimated value of the sale is $593 million and includes associated training, spare parts, aviation and ground support equipment, as well as a hangar, facilities and infrastructure required to support the program.
Representatives from the U.S. government and the contractor will need to go to Nigeria for training and logistical help. The training will include special instructions on the laws of armed conflict, human rights and air-to-ground integration to minimize civilian harm, the notice added.
“The proposed sale, and associated training and engagement, is one piece of broader U.S. security cooperation to help professionalize, modernize and build the capacity of Nigeria’s armed forces and strengthen the U.S. security relationship with Africa's largest democracy,” the notice said. “Nigeria will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.”
Congress was notified Wednesday and has 30 days from then to block the sale if it so chooses.
Former President Obama had halted the sale after a Nigerian fighter jet repeatedly bombed a camp of civilians who fled Boko Haram, killing more than 230.
But President Trump indicated shortly after he took office that he supported the sale.
In a February call with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Trump “expressed support for the sale of aircraft from the United States to support Nigeria's fight against Boko Haram,” according to a White House summary of the talk.