- To be reconfigured as air ambulance, troops’ carrier
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The presidency has in its bid to offload two aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF), handed over two Augusta AW101 Helicopters to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
The NAF, through its personnel in PAF, originally maintains these aircraft.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), in a ceremony monday, handed over the aircraft to the Minister of Defence, Muhammad Mansur Dan-Ali.
The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, and other top security chiefs witnessed the hand-over event at the Presidential Wing of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
The NSA noted that the release of what he described as ‘Very Important Personality (VIP)’ aircraft to the air force was “in fulfillment of the promise of President Muhammadu Buhari to reduce the amount of money spent on the maintenance of the PAF.”
According to him, “It is the desire of the president to ensure that the capacity of the Nigerian Air Force is well strengthened, especially for effective operations against terrorists and insurgents in parts of the country.”
Mongonu further explained that the decision handover the aircraft to the air force, was at the instance of President Buhari, as one of his cost-cutting measures in the country.
He disclosed that the president had in 2015 ordered the release of two aircraft – AW109 helicopter and a King Air Beechcraft, thereby confirming THISDAY report to that effect last year.
The NSA noted that the hand over of the aircraft to the air force as against the expected outright sale to cut cost, was in order to improve the operational capacity of the NAF in particular and Nigerian Armed Forces in the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the North-east.
He listed the features of the aircraft handed over to the NAF to include “ballistic defence capabilities and are equipped with defensive aid suites against certain forms of missile attacks.”
Monguno further disclosed that “the committee set up by the presidency on the approved sale of two other aircraft, a Falcon 7X and Hawker 4000 aircraft, would soon compete its assignment.”
Responding, Dan-Ali promised that the aircraft would be “deployed to further degrade and decimate the operational capacity of the insurgents and airlift troops in the operational area.”
He stressed that with the addition of the aircraft to the platforms to the NAF, the service would be able to do more to ensure that the war against terrorism, insurgency and criminality was decisively won in the country.
Also speaking, Abubakar commended the gesture from the presidency, saying the two aircraft will motivate and energise them more on the fight against all forms of insurrections in the country.
He also lauded the efforts of federal government to provide new platforms, funding and logistics that enabled the recent military successes against the Boko Haram terrorists in the North-east, and militants in the southern part of the country.
Abubakar promised that the service would go further to reconfigure the two aircraft for deployment for “tactical airlift of troops and logistics in support of combat operations.”
According to him, one of the aircraft would be reconfigured as an air ambulance with a trauma unitwhile the second one would be used as a carrier for troops.
The helicopters, he noted, were among the best equipped and most comfortable in the world.