Nigerian Airforce Well Equipped to Counter Banditry, Says Abubakar

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Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Mashal Sadique Abubakar yesterday in Kano said the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) was well equipped to further combat insurgency and banditry with the re-activation of three L-39ZA aircraft which include NAF352, NAF354 and NAF364.

The NAF boss who spoke during handover ceremony of the reactivated L-39ZA aircrafts by Czech-based company, Aero Vodochody Aerospace, at the 403  NAF Training School, Kano, said additional six of such aircraft would also be re-activated before the end of 2019.

According to him, “I think the impact the re-activation of these aircraft is going to make should go beyond even training the officers here. It is like sending a signal to Nigerians that the President and Commander-In-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari is highly committed  to ensuring that all that is required for us to be able to address some of the fundamental issues of internal security facing Nigeria are being addressed.

“That is why I think that it is not just a message to the school, but a message to Nigerians and I think the federal government is committed.

“We have brought in three grounded fighter aircraft that are now out, ready to be used. We need to train pilots to be able to have combat pilots that will go out to address these challenges. It is here in Kano that we do the basic training and we cannot achieve that, if we don’t have sufficient number of aircraft.

“So, this is a giant stride in my opinion, the federal government has made ensure that we continue the training of pilots. Remember also that some of these aircraft that you see here, we have utilised them in the North-east and that is why one of them that you see over there is painted in desert camouflage.

“I think it will impact positively on the air force to ensure that fighting training is going on without hindrance. They already have 15 pilots that are here. They will commence training immediately with these aircraft that have been re-activated, in addition to the ones that are already here.

“The re-activation of these aircraft means saving money and building capacity because all the guys, our engineers and technicians participated right from the beginning. They put the aircraft together with our technical partners from the Czech Republic and they have been very professional because these are aircraft manufactured in Czech Republic. “These are the original equipment manufacturers; they are not just business people. They are the people that manufactured the aircraft and supplied it to Nigeria in the 80s.

“Instead of carrying the aircraft outside Nigeria and doing the maintenance in Czech, which is an option, first it will cost us a lot of money for even taking these aircraft into cargo aircraft to fly to Czech and that will also mean that we will not have the opportunity to train our technicians.

“For the fact that the Czech staff have been here with us for the past four months, working very closely with our technicians, that has impacted positively in the confidence that our technicians have to maintain this aircraft and I believe that in the next few months, by the time we re-activate and conduct overhaul more six aircraft. That is our plan in 2019 budget and as soon as we achieve that, we have the capacity to do it on our won.

“This handing over ceremony marks a positive turning point in our efforts to ensure that the NAF is able to sustain jet training of our potential pilots in this school. The reactivation of these aircraft is also part of efforts to ensure that this school is operating at the optimum level in order to achieve the aims for which this flying school was set up.

“This is also the first step towards ensuring that all aircraft in the inventory of this very important institution are serviceable in line with our long term objectives of having at the very least, a minimum number of serviceable aircraft available for Basic Jet flying training activities at any point in time.

“I therefore charge you to ensure that the reactivated aircraft and other equipment in your custody are put to optimum and efficient use, while also ensuring that you avoid losing or damaging them through avoidable errors.

“May I use this opportunity to express my gratitude to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari for the priority attention given to our efforts to maintain our current platforms and equipment as well as the support given to the Nigerian Air Force to acquire new platforms such as the A-29 Super Tucano, JF-17 aircraft as well as additional Mi-35M and Agusta A-109 Power hels.

“The support provided by the federal government has no doubt had a positive impact on the ability of the NAF to meet the operational needs and requirements of the Armed Forces, enhanced our efficiency and improved provision of welfare and other services to our personnel.

“We reiterate our unalloyed loyalty and commitment to continue to support the federal government in its policy thrust of providing security, improved economy and fighting corruption in our dear country.”

Speaking also,  the Ambassador of Czech Republic in Nigeria, Marek Skolil traced the bilateral relationship between Czech and Nigeria in 1961, pointing out that the country has always remained a top ally to Nigeria even during the civil war.

“For 33 years of service here in Nigeria, this aircraft has proved to be rugged, reliable and pilot-friendly platform, used for the training of several generations of Nigeria Air Force pilots.

“Military-technical cooperation of Czech with Nigeria certainly did not stop at that. As from 2014, my country supported Nigerian Army as well as the Nigeria Air Force with equipment, materials, training and technical assistance to combat the insurgency in the North-east of the country.”

In his welcome address, the Commander of 403 NAF Flying Training School, Mr. Nnamdi Ananaba, said the engineers and technicians of the Aero Vodochody company spent four months in the school re-activating the three aircraft.