Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will, in March this year take delivery of additional two fighter jets to strengthen fight against terrorists which has now assumed a new dimension involving ISIS elements dislodged from Syria.
Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar disclosed the development at the weekend, confirming also that the Federal Government has released funds for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircrafts from the USA, and another 5 attack/utility helicopters which have been ordered from Italy.
“We are expecting two of these helicopters to arrive Nigeria in March,” the Air Chief told media executives, as he tried to explain progress made so far by the military in the fight against insurgents.
According to him there has been an unprecedented expansion of the Nigerian Air Force fleets of aircraft in the last 3 years, with a total of 16 brand new aircraft purchased, while 13 previously grounded aircraft were reactivated. Another two of those aircrafts are presently being reactivated.
The NAF is also conducting Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) for 3 Alpha Jet aircraft and Life Extension Programme for 3 L-39ZA aircraft in Kainji and Kano, respectively.
Platforms inducted into the NAF during the 2018 calendar year include additional Super Mushshak aircraft acquired from Pakistan, additional new Mi-35M Helicopters gunships delivered to Nigeria from the Russian Federation, 2 Bell 412 helicopters, Tsaigunmi UAV and one Alpha Jet ferried in from the USA into the country recently, he added.
Abubakar said the new tactics deployed by the terrorists also required a different strategy in the counter terrorism war, confirming that there has been “clearly a new dimension that was previously not there.”
“As 2018 drew to a close, we saw the emergence of new tactics as well as the introduction of highly experienced and skilled fighters and technology, as ISIS elements, dislodged from Syria, relocated to the North East of our country.
“Some of the insurgents are not just the usual BokoHaram we know because they even use sophisticated equipment now like the drones, saying that the normal Borko Haram does not have the capacity to deploy drones from Lake Chad to attack the Nigerian troops and then fly back.
He however assured that the country’s “gallant fighter and helicopter gunship pilots are adapting creditably to these emerging nuances and making good progress, despite recent setbacks.”
The Air Marshall maintained that in the process of repositioning the Service, the current NAF administration has, within the last three and half years, recorded remarkable achievements in the fight against terrorism and other forms of criminality in the country.
“This has been greatly facilitated by the acquisition of new platforms and reactivation of existing ones. The NAF has also witnessed enhanced professionalism through the expansion of its organizational structure and augmentation of its manpower strength.
“Tremendous progress has also been made in the areas of human capacity development, enhancement of personnel welfare as well as Research and Development (R&D).
Abubakar further countered widely held opinion that the federal government was not making sufficient effort against the Boko Haram insurgents, saying that the country has witnessed remarkable improvement in the security situation especially as regards the war against Boko Haram (BH), since 2015 when his leadership came into place.
“As at early 2015, the Boko Haram Sect was in control of over many Local Government Areas in the Northeastern part of the country. However, the combined efforts of the Armed Forces, supported by other security agencies, have resulted in the liberation of these territories from the Sect. As a result, many erstwhile displaced persons were able to return to their ancestral homes,” he explained.
Narrating some breakthroughs in research and development, he disclosed that in 2018, the NAF again invested greatly in R&D so as to develop unprecedented capacity to surmount current and emerging security challenges.
“The number of successful R&D breakthroughs is quite high and the list keeps growing by the day. While other R&D projects are at various stages of completion, the successful ones include the induction of the first NAF indigenous operational unmanned aerial vehicle named Tsaigunmi by President Mohammadu Buhari as well as the receipt of patent rights for the production of the Unmanned Ground Vehicle and the production of the hydraulic accumulator diaphragm for the Mi-35 helicopter.
He also mentioned the reactivation and weaponization of EC-135 helicopters for deployment in the ground attack role, design and production of a test bench for the Alpha Jet anti-skid system, local repair of Alpha Jet engines by NAF Technicians as well as the local Production of 30.1mm Rockets and Heat Shield protective cones, among others.
Announcing further achievements, he said the NAF embarked on massive recruitment resulting in the training of a total of 7,244 young Nigerians as airmen/airwomen and 400 young graduates as officers, in the last 3 years to optimally man the new structure for more effective and efficient employment of air power.
“This has boosted the capacity of the Service to sufficiently curtail insecurity in the country, while also implicitly keying into the Federal Government policy of job creation for young Nigerians.”
The NAF also in the past 3 years expanded its force structure by creating 2 new branches, 2 new Field Commands as well as several new units including some Quick Response Groups and Wings (QRGs/QRWs), to bring security closer to the citizens.