Boosting Local Content Development for NAF

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The Nigerian Air Force is set to partner Caverton Helicopters in the areas of maintenance of its rotary wing aircraft, capacity development of its engineers, technicians and pilots as well as software support, a
move in tandem with the Presidential Executive Order No 5 for development of local content in science, engineering and technology, Chiemelie Ezeobi reports

Undoubtedly, air power has continuously played decisive roles in bringing conflicts to speedy resolutions. In Nigeria for instance, the nation
faces several internal security challenges ranging from militancy in the South-south, pipeline vandalism in the South-west, cattle rustling in the North-west and Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.

To tackle these security challenges, there is optimum need for a formidable fleet to ensure the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) platforms remain operational. This is where the timely delivery of parts at reasonable costs, maintenance and capacity development, as well as localised partnerships become premium, which will inevitably boost local content development.

Given that the NAF is ordinarily compelled to rely mostly on foreign original equipment manufacturers for the supply of the parts and usually at exorbitant prices, the service under the leadership of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has over the years been focused on looking inwards.

This move by NAF is backed by the focus of the federal government in promoting local content, building indigenous technological capacity and innovation as principal means of preserving the nation’s foreign exchange earnings and.

Thus, in tandem with the Presidential Executive Order No 5 for development of local content in science, engineering and technology, NAF recently extended its local partnerships to Caverton Helicopters for local maintenance of its aircraft and capacity development.

THISDAY gathered that this partnership borders on maintenance of NAF’s rotary wing aircraft, capacity development of its engineers, technicians and pilots as well as software support.

According to NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, it is “imperative as part of the NAF’s continued efforts to ensure adequate and increased serviceability of its aircraft to boost the tempo of its air operations to tackle insurgency and other forms of criminality in the country. The partnership is also in tandem with the Presidential Executive Order No 5 for development of local content in science, engineering and technology.”

Partnership
To have a first hand experience of what the partnership will entail, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, recently visited Caverton Helicopters Limited office in Ikeja, Lagos.

The CAS, who was accompanied on the visit by some Branch Chiefs, Commandant Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Air Officer Commanding Logistics Command and other senior officers, was received by the Chairman Caverton Offshore Support Group, Mr Aderemi Makanjuola and other senior management staff of the company and conducted on a tour of the new Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Facility as well as the Caverton Aviation Training Centre and the 139 full flight Helicopter Level D Simulator, which was one the highlights of the tour.

Speaking further during the visit, the CAS, while noting the critical importance of partnerships between the military and the private sector, especially when a country is fighting war, stated that Caverton Helicopters had grown in leaps and bounds since the last time he visited the company’s facilities in Port Harcourt. He noted that the NAF would benefit immensely from the company’s expansion in the area of training and maintenance of its helicopters.

He further noted that fighting a war was not just about bullets, bombs and rockets but required the participation of all segments of the society, including the private sector. According to him, “when a country is fighting war, all hands must be on deck to succeed and ensure that the nation is secured and the people can pursue their legitimate aspirations without fear”.

Capacity Building
Air Marshal Abubakar emphasised that capacity building could also be boosted through such military-private sector partnerships. He disclosed that Caverton Helicopters is one of the indigenous companies that the service was keen to partner, especially for the maintenance of NAF aircraft such as Agusta Westland 139, Bell 412 and Agusta 109 Power Helicopters.

“I am also very excited that we can benefit from training. Training is a very important area that we are very interested in because we believe that the human being is the most important resource and that human being cannot function effectively if he/she does not have the right knowledge or skills”, the CAS said.

He further disclosed that the NAF would immediately start sending technicians and pilots for simulator training at the Caverton Helicopter Level D Simulator, once completed.

Bridging the Disconnect between Military, Private Sector
Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar highlighted that the NAF, in collaboration with sister services , was working round the clock to tackle insurgency and other security challenges confronting the nation. According to him, his visit to Caverton was part of the fight against insurgency.

He emphasised that fighting to ensure that Nigeria is secured, was not only a military affair but a collective responsibility. He noted there was a disconnect between the military and the private sector, which, he said, would need to be bridged. He said NAF and Caverton would put together a joint team to take the partnership to a higher level by quickly working out modalities to operationalise the various areas of collaboration.

Symbiotic Relationship
While welcoming the CAS, Mr Makanjuola stated that Caverton Helicopters, a 100 per cent indigenous company, has many things to thank the NAF for; one of which, he said, was the fact that many retired NAF officers were now working with the company. He noted that in recognition of the immense contributions of the NAF to the security and development of the nation as well as the areas of convergence in terms of training and maintenance requirements, he felt that Caverton Helicopters, with its team of competent hands, has a lot to offer the NAF.

The Chairman further stated that, in the area of training, the company has very strong national content development strategy. He disclosed that the company invested in the first full flight Helicopter Level D Simulator in Africa, which, he said, is expected to be completed in March 2021.

He noted that this would ensure that all simulator training is done in Nigeria, thereby saving foreign exchange whilst also generating revenue by attracting clients from Europe and other parts of Africa. He remarked that the areas of training collaboration include type-rating courses, recurrency training as well as search and rescue training, amongst others.

He said the company would also be offering type-rating training for the engineers, adding that the company would work assiduously with the NAF to ensure that everything the service requires to succeed is provided and delivered with utmost urgency and transparency.