By Kingsley Nwezeh
The aircraft hangar expected to accommodate 12 Super Tucano fighter jets recently procured by the federal government from the United States would be ready by December, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has said.
Also, the delivery of the fighter jets procured by the federal government in 2018 is due by the second quarter of 2021.
This is coming as 200 pilots and engineers expected to operate and maintain the aircraft are presently undergoing training in different countries.
Abubakar, who stated this during an inspection and assessment tour of the facilities, expressed satisfaction with the progress of ongoing infrastructural development projects at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base in Kainji, Niger State, emplaced to accommodate the 12 x A-29 Super Tucano aircraft when they arrive in Nigeria as well as the NAF personnel that would operate and maintain them.
He applauded the appreciable level of work on the in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) on two Alpha Jet aircraft, NAF 465 and NAF 471, as well as the engine recovery efforts being undertaken by the 407 Air Combat Training Group (407 ACTG) in Kainji.
Air Marshal Abubakar, while on an operational visit to Kainji NAF Base, also inspected the ongoing construction of three blocks of 10 single-bedroom Single Officers’ Quarters (SOQ); one block of 6 x 3 bedroom Married Officers’ Quarters (MOQ) as well as a block of 30 x single-bedroom transit accommodation for Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs).
Speaking after the inspection and assessment tour, the CAS, who was accompanied on the visit by Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command (AOC ATC) and some Branch Chiefs from NAF headquarters, expressed satisfaction at the pace of work on the PDM and various ongoing projects.
A statement issued by NAF headquarters in Abuja said the NAF boss called for concerted efforts to ensure that the NAF have the assets it required to discharge its assigned tasks.
He noted that the significant feature about the Alpha Jet PDM was the fact that it was done in Nigeria thereby enhancing the capacity of NAF personnel.
Abubakar said NAF had similarly conducted successful PDM on 2 C-130H aircraft (NAF 913 and 917) in Lagos, and was at the verge of commencing the in-country PDM on a third C-130H aircraft.
Speaking further, he noted that the NAF had in the same vein carried out Life Extension Programme (LEP) on 3 L-39ZA in Kano, and would soon commence in-country LEP on another batch of 3 L-39ZA.
He remarked that the arrangement had made it possible for the NAF to build the capacity of its personnel whilst also ensuring increased availability of attack helicopters and fighter jets for enhanced air power projection. The CAS also disclosed that similar major maintenance activities had commenced on the F-7 fighter jets in Makurdi.
“We have some of our Chinese friends in Makurdi who are supporting us as we work to reactivate the F-7s, and very soon, those fighter aircraft will be brought back to serviceable status.
“The whole idea is to mobilise every asset in the NAF in order to utilise them to ensure that Nigeria is secure and its people are safe,” Abubakar said.
The CAS, therefore, commended the AOC ATC, Air Vice Marshal Musa Mukhtar, and the Commander of 407 ACTG, Squadron Leader Gambo Maidawa, as well as NAF’s technical partner on the PDM project for their efforts in ensuring that the initiative of looking inwards continues to produce more capable NAF technicians.