Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and and Okon Bassey in Uyo
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, yesterday, inaugurated a committee to probe incidences of air strikes on civilian locations.
The committee is expected to compile all allegations of accidental air strikes on civilians as well as review the circumstances leading to such strikes.
The air force is also to take delivery of 17 attack aircraft by December in order to boost its air power capabilities, while awaiting the delivery of 35 pending acquisitions in 2023.
Amao, spoke at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Air Operations Seminar holding in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State from 27-28 October, 2022.
A statement by the spokesman of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, said the committee would proffer far-reaching measures that would mitigate future incidences of collateral damages on civilians during Nigerian Air Force (NAF) operations.
Amao noted that the investigation further aimed at promoting accountability, to enable the NAF learn valuable lessons in order to avoid or mitigate similar cases in the future as well as take extra measures to minimise civilian casualties in conflict areas.
Congratulating 17 young pilots winged during the opening ceremony of the seminar, Amao implored the pilots to be prepared for the arduous task ahead.
“There is no better way to launch you into your operational flying career than to have you draw from the rich operational experiences of seasoned pilots, who will be discussing germane issues relevant to air operations,” he said.
Amao admonished the young pilots to adhere to laid down rules of engagement while also taking all necessary steps to protect civilians and minimise civilian casualties during operations.
“The efforts to mitigate civilian casualties are not just a reflection of NAF values as a service but also strategically imperative to our operations,” he said.
He reminded the gathering of the security challenges currently impinging on the nation’s stability, but noted that the Armed Forces made significant gains in curtailing and degrading the resources and capabilities of miscreants seeking to destabilise the nation.
In particular, he praised the efforts of the NAF at unleashing the coercive effects of air poweron terrorists through intensive air interdiction of their locations and facilities.
“These punitive strikes degraded their resources, disrupted their supply lines, and denied them their freedom of movement,” he said.
Amao stated that the theme of the operations seminar, “Harnessing Nigerian Air Force Combat Experience in Joint Military Operations for Doctrinal Development,” was borne out of the need to draw instructions from the diverse and rich air combat experiences towards the development of sound doctrinal principles to guide future engagements.
This, he noted, was largely because lessons learnt from previous campaigns remained veritable sources of inputs for doctrinal development.
He said, “Hence the need to re-appraise our past operational successes and failures in order to re-strategise towards a more operationally effective NAF that can contribute to expeditiously ending the current scourge of insecurity.”
The Air Force boss harped on the need to take cognisance of the dynamism and complexities of the ever-changing security environment while adopting strategies that would promote NAF’s retention of credible air power capability to prosecute current and future warfare.
In his remarks, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Emmanuel, noted that NAF, had lived up to its statutory responsibilities and objectives over the years, considering its successful exploits in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia and Mali, which accorded great international recognition for Nigeria.
He said professionalism of the NAF under the leadership of Amao had further given the Nigerian state a sense of hope and security, even as he acknowledged the sacrifice that Nigeria’s serving and retired airmen made and continued to make towards the peace and progress of the country.
He noted with conviction that Amao’s leadership NAF would be provided with all that it required to optimally contribute to securing the nation.
Meanwhile, NAF has said it would on October 28 conduct Sea Flying/Training Exercise using some selected NAF aircraft.
It said the exercise would showcase the capabilities of the NAF as well as its presence in the ongoing air operations against crude oil theft in the South-south region of the country.
“It is also a training exercise that intends to improve aircrew skills in the tactical aspects of maritime operations, thus enhancing their skills. The well-attended two-day seminar drew serving and retired officers from the NAF and sister services,” a NAF statement stated.
On the expected 17 fighter aircraft, whose delivery is this December Amao, who claimed other new acquisitions would be delivered in 2023, said the new choppers would be in addition to the already acquired 38 aircraft by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration since 2015.
He listed the new aircraft expected to include two Agusta 109 Trekker multi-role helicopters, two Beechcraft King Air 360, four Diamond DA-62 surveillance aircraft, three Wing Loong II UCAVs, six T-129 ATAK helicopters, two CASA-295 medium airlift/surveillance aircraft, 12 AH-1Z attack helicopters, and 24 M-346 attack aircraft.
The Chief of Air Staff, stated that, “Under Mr President’s able leadership, the federal government has, since 2015, acquired 38 new aircraft to boost training and combat readiness of the NAF.
“A few of these additional platforms are expected to be delivered to the Nigerian Air Force in December 2022, while others are to be delivered with effect from 2023,” saying, air strikes had neutralised the activities of terrorists in the country.