Philibus Audu Nwamagyi, PhD

Department of International Relations,

Greenfield University, Kaduna


This paper examines the involvement and use of air power, better known as air force, in executing the Nigerian civil war. The air force involvement was a necessary strategy and tactics used by the Federal Military Government and the Biafran Republic in the war which lasted from 1967-1970. The paper conceptualizes the concepts of Air Power, Civil War, Federal Military Government, Biafran Republic, War Strategy and Tactics for the purpose of contextualizing their usage in the analysis. The paper relies on primary and secondary sources derived from conventional and electronic libraries for the research. The researcher uses varied sources for the purpose of corroborating the ideas available in documented literature and employed the historical and interdisciplinary approaches such as narrative and analytical methods in analysing the issues. For purpose of intellectual honesty, the research acknowledges all sources consulted through footnotes and references. The research findings reveal the usage of air power as strategy and tactics in the civil war on both sides. The paper informs the readers and the general public on the significance place of the Air Force or Power in executing the civil war. In addition, the paper serves as additional research literature and creates new research problems for future researchers interested in the Nigerian civil war, 1967- 1970.

Keywords: Air Power, Civil War, Strategy and Tactics


Like many wars in the annals of human history, the Nigerian Civil War witnessed the used of shrewd strategy and tactics by the parties involved in their efforts to gain advantage over each other. Of particular interest was the use of air power as strategy and tactics by the parties involved in prosecuting the civil war. While some argued that the civil war was an unfortunate event that inflicted untold hardship on Nigerians and Biafrans alike, others are of the opinion that warfare is historically part and parcel of human society; hence, no human society ever lived without one form of conflict or the other. For instance, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, warfare was an attribute of human politics locally and internationally. As a global phenomenon, therefore, warfare threatened world peace and particularly the socio-economic and political wellbeing of the human societies. In particular, Europe experienced the Franco-Prussian and Napoleonic wars in the 19th century, whereas from the second decade of the 20th century, warfare became a global phenomenon with the First and Second World Wars fought between 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 respectively. The end of the WW II in 1945 ushered in the Cold War, following the emergence of USA and USSR as world powers until the 1990s when USA emerged as the unilateral global hegemonic power after the collapse of the USSR between 1990 and 1991.

            In like manner, African societies in the 19th and 20th centuries witnessed several wars that threatened their peaceful coexistence and development. During the 19th century, traditional political communities in the area that later became Nigeria in 1914 witnessed several wars. These include the Yoruba civil wars; the Jihad movement of Usman Ibn dan Fodio, the Kanem-Borno wars and the Kwararafa wars of territorial expansion. Similarly, in an effort to resist the colonial conquest and rule, various societies in Nigeria, before the amalgamation, engaged the colonial masters in wars until they were eventually conquered and subdued by the British colonial power. Furthermore, after gaining political independence from their colonial masters, African countries witnessed spiral of civil wars which threatened their peaceful coexistence, unity and cohesion. These civil wars brought untold consequences on their socio-economic and political progress and development. Of all of these wars, the Nigerian Civil War stands out as the major concern of this paper. The Nigerian Civil War is also known as the Biafran War or Nigerian-Biafran War. The war, which broke out on 6th July, 1967, and ended on 15th January, 1970, was fought between the Federal Military Government of Nigeria and the Secessionist Republic of Biafra. The emphasis of this paper is on the use of Air Power or Air Force as strategy and tactics in executing the war by the warring parties.

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