FG Procures 16 Drones, Three Fighter Jets from China

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By Deji Elumoye and Kingsley Nwezeh

In a bid to boost the war against insurgency and armed banditry in the North-east and North-west, the federal government has procured 16 Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles (UCAVs) otherwise known as drones and three fighter jets from China.

Seven fighter jets are also to be reactivated in China while four are undergoing the same process in Nigeria.

Nigerian Air Force (NAF) said it would deploy four unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) in Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto and Kaduna states.

It said part of the containment strategy was the construction of a runway and ancillary facilities for the UCAVs in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital.

Speaking as part of his ongoing tour of NAF bases and formations in Zamfara, Benue and Kano states, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, disclosed that the drones being expected from China were already packaged for shipment to Nigeria while the training of the NAF personnel to man them is ongoing in China.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had authorised the construction of a runway and ancillary facilities in Gusau for the deployment of four newly acquired UCAVs to cover Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina states as well as parts of Kaduna State.

While highlighting the capabilities of the UCAVs, the CAS noted that the unmanned aircraft could remain airborne for up to 26 hours providing persistent presence over areas of interest.

He stated that the four drones were part of the eight drones recently acquired by government to enhance the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) as well as air strike capabilities of the NAF not only in the fight against armed banditry in the North-west and North-central but also in counterinsurgency operations in the North-east.

He revealed that two UCAVs were to be deployed at the newly established 203 Combat Reconnaissance Group in Gombe and the two others at the Air Task Force, Operation Lafiya Dole Headquarters in Maiduguri.

On the reactivation of aircraft, Abubakar said the developments clearly showed the level of seriousness with which the government was working to ensure that the NAF got some of its grounded aircraft back to flying status.

He disclosed that out of the nine F-7 fighter jets earmarked for reactivation, seven aircraft, which require high level, in-depth maintenance by the original equipment manufacturer were being disassembled for freighting to China due to the unavailability of all the necessary maintenance and test equipment within Nigeria.

He said two of the aircraft would undergo life extension programme within the country, which would be executed by the Chinese technical partners, with support from NAF engineers and technicians, using equipment in the recently reactivated machine tools workshop at the 131 Engineering Group.

The idea, he said, was to ensure that the NAF had adequate number of serviceable aircraft whilst also building the capacity of NAF personnel in line with what was done with the Alpha Jets in Kainji, as well as with the C-130Hs and the L-39ZAs aircraft in Ikeja and Kano, respectively.

“This clearly shows that all hands are on deck. We are working round the clock to ensure that we have what it takes in terms of capabilities as well as capacity to ensure that we provide the required security for our people and our country”, the CAS said.