22. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Sale of Boeing Chinook Helicopters to Nigeria

The Boeing Vertol Company has informed us that the Nigerian Air Force wishes to purchase seven Chinook helicopters (CH–47C’s). Since this prospective sale could change the nature of our military supply relationship with Nigeria, I am informing you about it at this early stage to obtain your views.

The total sale could amount to about $40 million. If approved, it would represent the first sale on a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) basis of U.S. military equipment to Nigeria since the Nigerian civil war. (The Nigerians already have six C–130 transport planes, but these were purchased commercially, not through FMS.) Boeing representatives have informed us that the Nigerian Federal Military Government (FMG) would like to send a 5–7 man team to the United States the week of April 17 to visit the Boeing production facility and U.S. Army installations to inspect and see CH–47 helicopters demonstrated. State Department permission would be required for a visit to the Boeing factory because it is a defense plant. Defense Department clearance is required to visit U.S. Army installations.

Our Ambassador to Nigeria strongly favors the sale of Chinooks, but he and Boeing are concerned that the Nigerians not be allowed to proceed too far if there is any chance the USG would turn down a subsequent request for a FMS Letter of Offer and Acceptance. Boeing has requested an advisory opinion on whether we would issue an export license.

Although your election and Ambassador Young’s trip to Nigeria have already strengthened our bilateral relations,2 we have an interest in further links to the FMG. The USG’s decision not to sell spare parts and ammunition during the Nigerian civil war was a basic reason for the decline in our relations. A Nigerian decision to proceed with the Chinook purchase could contribute to the further improvement of US-Nigerian relations.

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With respect to arms transfer policy concerns, the Chinook is a heavy-lift helicopter which would improve the mobility of the Nigerian armed forces and would also be available for non-military roles such as civic action and infrastructure projects. It is unarmed, and we have sold non-lethal equipment to Nigeria in the past. For these reasons, Ambassador Young supports this sale. It cannot be air transported (except by the very largest cargo aircraft) and has limited range, so that it is unlikely to be used outside the immediate environs of Nigeria. Nigeria is already militarily much stronger than its neighbors, but this has not raised concerns among them. However, a Chinook sale could lead to further sales inquiries from the Nigerians. They have already expressed interest in possible purchases of C–130 and F–5E aircraft, artillery, air defense radar, and other military equipment.

While the visit of the Nigerian team does not require Congressional notification, it may eventually lead to a sale which would require submission to Congress. Under section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act, as amended, any Letter of Offer to sell major defense equipment valued at $7 million or more must be submitted to Congress for review and possible rejection by concurrent resolution.


In light of our desire to improve our bilateral relationship with Nigeria and notwithstanding our general policy to restrict arms transfers to developing countries, I recommend that you:

A. Authorize me to approve the prospective Nigerian visit to Boeing facilities and to request the Department of Defense to approve visits to appropriate U.S. Army installations.

B. Approve in principle a positive USG response to any subsequent Nigerian request to purchase CH–47 Chinook helicopters.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 57, Nigeria 1–2/77. Secret.
  2. See Document 20.
  3. Carter checked the “Approve” option under both recommendations.