The Nigerian Air Force is to integrate a total of 5 combat aircraft including 2 Mi-35 Gunships, 2 Bell 412 helicopters into its counter-insurgency operations in the North East by January 2018.
Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar made the disclosure at the opening of the 4th Quarters Chief of Air Staff Conference meeting with Commanders including AOC’s, Commandants of Training Institutions and Principal Staff Officers in Abuja, Field Commanders and Directors at NAF HQ.
The CAS used the occasion to announce that the Airforce Component of Operation Lafiya Dole would henceforth have an Air Task Force Commander (AVM Idi Lubo) in charge even as he explained that the officer who is an Air Vice Marshal would be under the Theatre Commander in Maiduguri.
Abubakar also said that NAF liaison officers (Regional Air Liaisons) to coordinate Air operations within the three Army Divisions in the North East, namely 7 division, 8 Task Force division and 3rd Armoured division, would be appointed to ensure smooth air operations.
He disclosed 24 newly trained pilots who just concluded training abroad would be arriving the country soon and will be deployed for air operations immediately.
He announced that one of the NAF’s new pilots, a female, who emerged the best overall pilot during ab-initio training at 401 Flying Training School, Kaduna for the first time in the history of the NAF, was on the way to the United States Air Force for training as a fighter pilot.
His words, “The aim of the CAS 4th Quarter Conference 2017 is to appraise progress made in the NAF since the end of the 3rd Quarter. The last was held in Kaduna three months ago.
“The idea is also obtain ideas from the bottom to the top such that ideas would be shared towards moving the NAF forward.
“The NAF has activated additional platforms which had been deployed for operations in the Northeast.
“For example, one Bell 412 Helicopter had been activated while work on the second one would be completed before the end of the month.
“One Mi-35P Helicopter is being reactivated and should be ready for operation by January 2018 ending. The overhauled engines needed for the reactivation have already arrived in Nigeria.
“The reactivation is being done locally to further build the capacity of NAF technical personnel and also save cost.
“Some foreign technical experts have been invited to execute the project in conjunction with our NAF engineers and technicians.
“The 2 additional Mi-35M helicopters recently procured for the NAF by the Federal Government had been test flown in Russia and should be operational in Nigeria by February 2018.
“Therefore, total of 5 combat helicopters are being added to the NAF counterinsurgency efforts.
“The Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) of C-130H Aircraft had commenced in Lagos.
“Similarly, the Service life of C-130H aircraft NAF 913 has been successfully extended.
“The foregoing efforts are to boost the strategic and operational airlift capability of the NAF.
“The NAF air operations’ in the Northeast has been reorganized for increased efficiency.
“The Air Component Commander has been replaced with a Commander Air Task Force, an Air Vice Marshal (2-star General), who reports to the Theatre Commander.
“The NAF has also appointed three (3), Divisional Air Liaison Officers (DALO) for the Nigerian Army’s 3 as 7 and 8 Divisions in the Northeast.
“The whole idea is to ensure a better coordination of air efforts with ground operations.
“The NAF has also appointed an Air Liaison Officer for the Theatre Command to further limit the possibility of gaps in operations.
“In the area of Force Protection, the NAF has trained some of its Regiment personnel as additional Special Forces and deployed them to the Northeast for operations alongside other surface forces.
“The NAF has graduated the second set of participants from its Air War College in Makurdi. The graduates are expected to add value to the Service in general and in operational activities.”
He urged the officers to be frank in the deliberations at the conference.