To curb capital flight, the Nigerian Air Force recently carried out in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance on its C-130H aircraft, which was afterwards deployed to convey weapons and logistics to the North-east and North-west, Chiemelie Ezeobi reports
To send reinforcements, comprising weapons and logistics to soldiers in the war front, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Monday deployed the C-130H NAF 917 Aircraft to the North-east and North-west. But before it’s redeployment, the aircraft was grounded until the one and half years indepth in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM), the first of its kind in two decades, carried out on it.
It is pertinent to state that the redeployment took place few days after receiving three L-39ZA aircraft that were reactivated in-country to enhance the number of serviceable fighter jets in its inventory.
The local reactivation of NAF 917, which was carried out by Messrs SABENA TECHNICS of France in conjunction with NAF engineers and technicians, involved extensive disassembly of the aircraft parts as well as inspection, repair and overhaul of components, amongst others. According to the Director of Public Relations, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, the involvement of NAF personnel in the reactivation was to further expose them to every stage of the in-depth maintenance process, with a view to building the NAF’s inherent maintenance capabilities.
At its inauguration at the Aircraft Maintenance Depot (ACMD), Lagos, which also witnessed the flag-off of the PDM of another C-130H aircraft, NAF 913, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar said the refitting and indepth maintenance of the aircraft was carried out in-country by NAF engineers in collaboration with their technical partners, Messrs SABENA TECHNICS.
He said the PDM of the aircraft marked the beginning of a new dawn in the strategic plan to develop a robust capacity for in-country maintenance and sustenance of NAF platforms and equipment.
Abubakar said: “The significance of today’s acceptance ceremony can best be appreciated by acknowledging the critical role of airlift in ensuring that logistics requirements of our troops involved in various internal security operations are met within the shortest possible time. The C-130H fleet, in particular, has been one of the key fulcrums in providing sustainment to our troops involved in ongoing internal security operations through airlift and movement of troops, equipment, armament and other materiel. The C-130H has also been critical to NAF’s response to emergencies or in fulfilling Nigeria’s responsibilities to international peace keeping operations and ensuring stability, not just in the West African sub-region but also across the continent.”
On deployment he said: “This aircraft will be deployed immediately to the North-east and North-western parts of the country. Without this C-130, you cannot have a successful operation. How do you carry bombs, rockets? Which aircraft will carry it? It is the C-130 that carries it. Apart from that how do you discharge food materials? Because of the shortage as a result of conflict, distribution of food items are done by the C-130.
“In country maintenance is very important because it is all about building capacity. This is the first time in the history of the Nigerian Air Force that we are conducting a very successful PDM within Nigeria. It sends a good message that though we have technical partners, we also have technicians that are Nigerians that have participated to ensure the PDM is conducted locally. It has saved us foreign exchange. If we were to carry this aircraft outside Nigeria, we have to pay for cargo.
“For it to be moved, it has to be dismantled and then, we will have limited number of personnel that will be sent abroad for that. But now that it was done in Nigeria, everybody in that unit had the opportunity to really be part of the process and in that wise, we are so excited. Now, we just flagged the PDM of the second one which is 912. The Pakistani Air Force is here working with us because they fly the same aircraft and have capacity we believe we can tap from.”
He further cited examples of operations in which the C-130H played critical roles to include ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone, airlift of troops to Congo, Mali, Sudan as well as the recent success of the ECOWAS Military Intervention Group (ECOMIG) operation in the Gambia through airlift of troops and materiel to and from the theatre of operation and a host of other peace keeping operations.
While appreciating the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to NAF’s efforts to maintain its platforms and equipment as well as the support to acquire new ones, the CAS emphasised that the in-country maintenance was to ensure the transfer of technical know-how and experience from the technical partners to NAF engineers and technicians.
“This is in line with our plan to build in-house capacity to ensure that we domicile the skills and expertise required to carry out maintenance activities in order to better support and sustain NAF air operations especially in the face of competing needs for national resources. This is also the main thrust of all our other aircraft maintenance, reactivation and Life Extension Programmes as well as PDM efforts being carried out in collaboration with other technical partners on the Alpha Jet, L-39ZA, Mi-35P, EC-135 helicopter and C-130H (NAF 913), currently docked for PDM in this hangar.
“These efforts are also in tandem with our Research and Development (R&D) drive which has started yielding results in many areas such as local fabrication of tools and spares, some of which were utilised in the conduct of the recently conducted PDM”, he added.
Earlier, the Air Officer Commanding, Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal Abdul-Ganiyu Olabisi, in his welcome address, said the ceremony was a long time aspiration of the NAF to domesticate in-depth maintenance of the C-130H fleet which was the strategic objective for the establishment of this depot.
He said: “Although an attempt was made between 1998 and year 2000 to conduct periodic depot maintenance on 2 X C 130H aircraft, NAF910 and NAF912, sadly the programme ended in a fiasco and the two aircraft have remained grounded from that time till date- spanning a period of almost two decades.
“Undaunted by this nasty experience, the current NAF administration under the leadership of Air Marshal Abubakar has intensified effort since 2015 to conduct in-depth maintenance of NAF platforms including the C-130H fleet in Nigeria.
“To achieve this objective, the administration accorded top priority to human capacity development for self-reliance and exploration of strategic partnership with other organisations.
“It was against this background that contract was awarded to Messrs SABENA Technics of France in November 2017 to conduct PDM of NAF 917 in Nigeria in conjuction with NAF engineers and technicians.”
The CAS was later conducted on a tour and briefed on details of project management process for the PDM of NAF 913 by the Pakistan Air Force Technical Assistance Group. While in Lagos, the CAS also commissioned some welfare projects which included a newly constructed Crew Room at the 47 Engineering Wing of 631 ACMD as well as a newly constructed Canteen for personnel at the 651 Base Services Group, Ikeja, where he commended the Commanders for taking the initiative and adding value to improve the welfare of their personnel.
He also inspected some vehicles and maintenance equipment which were reactivated through innovative R&D efforts at 631 ACMD. Dignitaries present at the ceremony included the Commandant Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Air Vice Marshal Abubarkar-Sadick Liman, as well as the General Officer Commanding, 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Sanni Yusuf and Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, along with many other senior serving and retired senior officers.