Air Marshal Hasan Bala Abubakar: Transforming the Nigerian Air Force into a Resilient Regional AirPower

When Air Vice Marshal Hasan Bala Abubakar was appointed as the 22nd Chief of Air Staff, CAS, of the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, on June 19, 2023 and assumed office on June 22, 2023, his Command Philosophy was aimed at transforming the Nigerian Air Force into an agile and resilient force capable of effectively meeting national security demands in all operational environments, while also safeguarding the welfare of all personnel.  Nearly one year down the line, through inclusive leadership, the CAS has lived up to the billing from acquisition of strategic platforms capable of carrying out complete range of air operations, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; to boosting welfare of personnel; overhauling NAF operational environment; Infrastructural development; addressing training needs; and championing innovation through Research and Development. As the NAF recently clocked 60 last week, the Air Chief in an exclusive media chat with THISDAY and a few others, reminisced over the strides of the past, highlighted the gains of today, while outlining the future plans of the NAF under his leadership. Chiemelie Ezeobi brings excerpts; 

You have been Air Chief for 11 months now. At the point of entry, did you set any targets for yourself that, looking back today, you have yet to achieve?

As a matter of fact, I think the targets we have set for ourselves have been largely achieved in terms of aircraft. The only challenge limiting further progress is the availability of resources. If we had more resources, we would have been able to achieve more. Looking back at what we’ve accomplished in the past year, I believe we have done more than was expected of us.

Still on this, next month being June, you will clock one year in office. What can you boast about that the Nigerian Air Force has achieved in the past year?

The idea to establish the Nigerian Air Force began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1959, during a mission in Tanganyika, now Tanzania, President Julius Nyerere requested the Nigerian government to assist in quelling a riot, leading Nigeria to send troops to Tanzania. Then, in July 1960, there was a United Nations mission in Congo to which Nigeria was to contribute troops, but we did not have any assets to transport our troops. These movements were entirely carried out by foreign air forces, making us realise the necessity of establishing our own air force.

In 1962, we started contacting foreign partners and commenced training. Some personnel went to Ethiopia, others to Canada, and other countries. The Nigerian Air Force was officially established by an act of parliament in April 1962. Subsequently, a German technical assistant was brought in to help nurture and develop the Nigerian Air Force. However, with the onset of the civil war in Nigeria in 1967, the Germans left, and young Nigerians had to fend for themselves. I am glad to say that the Nigerian Air Force played its role very well during the civil war.

After the civil war, in the 1970s and 1980s, we experienced significant improvements in our aircraft and equipment holdings. This period is remembered as the golden era of the Nigerian Air Force, with airplanes like the Alpha Jet, C-130, Jaguars, and B-21. These improvements were the result of policies during the military regime. With the onset of democracy in 1999, our fortunes started to revive, leading to the formidable air force we have today.

From being a tactical air force designed only to support operations, we have now integrated a variety of platforms into the system, such as the A-29 Super Tucano, Mil Mi-24/35 Hind, and Bell 412. This marks another golden era for the Nigerian Air Force. These are exciting and important times for the Nigerian Armed Forces, showcasing transformation and development. We have evolved from a basic tactical air force to one of the most formidable and largest on the African continent.

We have every reason to celebrate and be happy at 60. The transformation from a very basic air force to what we have now is remarkable. We are capable of carrying out a complete range of air operations, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, thanks to our recently acquired platforms. In the area of command, aerial vehicles are making a significant difference in our operations. The Air Force is now balanced, formidable, and strategic in outlook. We are very happy and look forward to more golden years ahead.

For your second question, when I assumed the mantle of leadership as the 22nd Chief of Air Staff about 10 to 11 months ago, the first task was to conduct a detailed and thorough environmental scan. This scan was aimed at evaluating the entire Air Force—operations, training, logistics, and more—to understand our current state, existing assets, and the capabilities we needed to acquire. We also assessed the equipment and the type of skills required in terms of manpower to achieve our envisioned goals for the Air Force.

As a result of this environmental scan, I developed my command philosophy, which aims to transform the Nigerian Air Force into an agile and resilient force capable of effectively meeting national security demands in all operational environments. The scan helped us identify gaps and issues across various aspects of the Air Force, providing a clear picture of the necessary actions to elevate the Air Force to the next level. To realise this command philosophy, we established focus areas formulated into what I call the key enablers for achieving our goals.

The first key enabler focuses on optimising force structure and establishment for enhanced operational effectiveness. Another key enabler centres on training and manpower development. We also emphasise research and development, leveraging cutting-edge technology, and strategic partnerships. Lastly, maintaining a highly motivated force through welfare and infrastructural renewal is crucial. These key enablers and the command philosophy serve as our guide.

Most of our activities needed to elevate the Air Force fall under these key enablers. We can discuss each key enabler to examine the gaps identified and the interventions implemented over the past year, highlighting their impact on resolving issues and their role in advancing our activities to the next level. Essentially, these are the areas we are focusing on to elevate the Air Force, addressing the challenges identified at the outset.

Can you quantify some of these successes, particularly in the area of asset acquisition, capacity building, training, and manpower recruitment in the last year? 

In the area of training, which aligns with one of the key enablers of my command philosophy, we assessed our manpower upon taking command. The environmental scan revealed that our manpower was not very effective, stemming from issues within our training institutions.

We have various training institutions for virtually every specialty in the Air Force, responsible for preparing our personnel and officers for field duties. However, we found that this training was not optimal. The personnel coming out of these institutions were not readily empowered, requiring additional training to be used effectively. This situation was unacceptable as it wasted time and resources. Therefore, we examined the institutions and their setups thoroughly.

We discovered that the syllabi in most of these training institutes were outdated, having been designed five, 10, or even 20 years ago, without adequate revisions to match current activities. As a result, we began overhauling the syllabi of all our training institutions to ensure they could produce the required quality of manpower. Additionally, we identified deficiencies in facilities and infrastructure within these institutions. Addressing infrastructure issues is a focus area of my philosophy, and this gap in our training institutions required serious attention.

We are now focusing on providing the right kind of infrastructure and facilities to ensure that the manpower coming out of these institutions is optimal and ready for immediate deployment in the field.

Similarly, there was a decline in the quality of instructors. Addressing this, we have designed a completely new set of criteria for selecting instructors for any Air Force institution, focusing on specific qualifications and skill sets. These measures ensure that anyone passing through a Nigerian Air Force institution meets and even surpasses the expected standards. This is how we are tackling the issue of training.

In the past year, we have graduated about 237 officers, including both regular combatant officers and direct short service officers. Additionally, we have enlisted around 1,200 airmen recruits. This has significantly boosted our manpower. We are about to start training another set of officers from the Direct Short Service Commission as well as another set of enlisted personnel. 

By the end of the year, we aim to have increased our manpower by several thousand, which is a significant achievement within the period we are looking at.

In terms of acquisitions, in the past year, I mentioned that this period is reminiscent of the golden times—perhaps even better. These could be considered diamond times for the Nigerian Air Force, as there has never been a time in our history when we have had such an influx of assets and capabilities. In the past year alone, we have acquired eight platforms with various capabilities.

In October last year, we received four Diamond 62 airplanes. These special mission airplanes are equipped with cameras optimised for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, which are crucial for our current operations. All four have been deployed in their respective centers of operation and have significantly improved the quality of our operations. Additionally, we acquired two King Air 360 light transport airplanes, which assist in logistic movements and other liaison flights.

We also received T129 ATAK helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries. A total of six have been procured by the federal government, with two already in the country and two more expected by June or July. These helicopters are optimised for ground attack and have been deployed in the Niger Delta, where they have significantly curbed oil theft and pipeline vandalism. 

These are just the acquisitions from the past year. However, our overall acquisitions extend beyond this period because airplanes cannot be purchased off the shelf. The federal government has made payments and signed concrete contracts for additional assets. For example, we are acquiring AH-1Z attack helicopters from the US, which will start arriving this year. We also have firm contracts for 12 AgustaWestlandAW109 Trekker light attack helicopters. The first of these has arrived in the country and are awaiting a test flight.

For those familiar with our Alpha Jets used in Liberia and Sierra Leone, these aircraft are now old and need to be retired. To replace them, we have procured 24 M-346 Master jets from Italy. These jets, used for both training and light attack, will start arriving before the end of this year. This acquisition includes two squadrons due to their dual role in operational training and combat. With these acquisitions and our focus on manpower training, we have had a formidable and successful year.

Since we have all these assets that you spoke about, shouldn’t we have expelled Boko Haram and the insurgents by now?

The fight against insurgency and banditry is a completely different kind of warfare. It’s a type of warfare where your adversaries are Nigerians, embedded within the population. It’s not like conventional warfare where you can simply load your airplanes with bombs and drop them, knowing whoever is there is an adversary. Here, the adversary is within the population, and the same media has reported several times in the past that we have mistakenly dropped bombs resulting in civilian casualties.

We are very careful to avoid such incidents because we do not want even one innocent Nigerian to be killed in the fight against bandits and terrorists. This makes the operation very complicated and difficult, unlike normal conventional operations. The operations we conduct now are largely intelligence-driven, involving extensive intelligence gathering and follow-up. Ideally, we should only be conducting precision strikes to avoid collateral damage, but that is not always possible.

To address this, numerous measures are put in place, such as targeting circuits, intelligence circuits, high-end surveillance, and extensive data collection and analysis before hitting a target. This ensures that innocent people don’t suffer, making the process difficult, but necessary to appreciate. For instance, we could bomb the whole of Sambisa Forest in one day and ensure nobody leaves, but it’s not feasible due to the challenges mentioned.

Similarly, in all other areas of operation, there are often too many innocent people embedded, sometimes not out of their free will but because they are forced to stay. Understanding these complexities is crucial. It is a deliberate process that takes time, but eventually, we will overcome these challenges.

On synergy with sister services, your visibility in the South-South, Niger Delta, and South-East regions from late last year to this year has been commendable and impressive. But with the increasing threat of terrorism and insurgency in various regions, how do you envision the NAF leveraging its air power capabilities to support ground troops and ground operations, thereby enhancing joint force effectiveness in the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign?

Nigerians have always had concerns, possibly fears, due to past experiences. There was a belief that there was no synergy between the forces. I want to allay that concern by stating that now, there is very good synergy between all the services. When I say very good, I mean it is truly excellent, and this is reflected in the successes we have had in various sectors of operation. The major roles of the NAF, such as providing support to surface forces, would not be effective without this synergy.

If there were no synergy between the NAF and surface forces, there could not be any significant impact on our operations. You will agree that we have had a very good impact in recent times. For example, close air support and airdrop operations are conducted in conjunction with surface forces. Even ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) operations must be done in conjunction with the movement of surface forces. This cooperation is integral and intrinsic to the nature of our operations. 

You must synergise and cooperate to have any meaningful impact. Without this cooperation, no single service can conduct any operation and have a significant impact, especially with the types of operations we conduct now.

 When we came on board, it was a bonus that both the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) and the Chief of Army Staff were my mates. We have an understanding that enhances our ability to synergise, collaborate, and cooperate with each other. As a matter of fact, the CNS and I attended the same secondary school and were in the same class. This personal level of understanding further enhances our ability to work together effectively.

That also emphasises our duty to synergise, collaborate, and cooperate together. The same is true with the Chief of Defense Staff. We have been together in the same battalion. All the service chiefs come from the same battalion, so we know each other well. This close understanding and relationship help us significantly.

Operationally, collaboration is the only way forward. Any service that wants to succeed operationally must collaborate with other services. Over the past year, you have seen this collaboration in action with no significant downsides. Strengthening and cementing this duty of collaboration is crucial.

Lack of synergy or collaboration was a concern in the past, but that is no longer the case in the Nigerian service. We are actively working on improving and solidifying our collaborative efforts.

As a follow-up on acquisition, this is a new era for the Air Force. Additionally, the local sourcing of spare parts for these platforms is crucial to avoid dependency. 

In the acquisition of spare parts and country maintenance, bad access has been a persistent issue. We need to focus on key enablers such as research and deployment, strategic partnerships, technology, and lesson plans. This is an area that requires development. The Air Force started addressing this some time ago, and we are building on those efforts.

 The Air Force is the technical arm of service, with 80 to 90 per cent of the payment going towards trading in airplanes and sometimes even fuel, which we have to import due to a lack of local refining capabilities.

The cost of importing fuel is very high, and we are all aware of its impact on our economy. Therefore, we need a sustainable solution. Even before the recent financial issues, the Air Force has been exploring ways to domesticate some of these needs. In the past, even the smallest parts, like a simple pin used to attach components, had to be imported. We often had to rely on foreign vendors for our defense needs, but we started developing strong institutions to mitigate this dependency.

We have a robust setup, from classrooms to headquarters. At the headquarters, we have a role in technology that is in capable hands. Initially, we started as technical training rooms, but now we have programs from university levels up to PhD levels focusing on aviation. These programs conduct significant research for us. Additionally, the Air Force has a research and deployment center located in Osogbo, designed to solve practical field problems.

These two entities, along with our research and deployment efforts, have greatly assisted us. Many technologies have emerged from our research efforts, with more than thirty products developed through these initiatives. These innovations effectively solve real, practical problems. Recently, we conducted a research and development policy competition, which concluded two days ago. The winners will be awarded soon. The products and ideas presented by various personnel of the Nigerian Air Force were impressive and lucrative.

We have a memorandum of understanding with 40 tertiary institutions and research institutes within the country. This collaboration aims to leverage arrangements that support our research and development efforts. This strategy has been very successful, saving us a lot of money. The only way forward is to continue supporting and encouraging these efforts until they can become self-sufficient. We are on the right path and must keep moving in this direction.

Congratulations on the 60th  anniversary of the Nigerian Air Force. Regarding those Golden Eras you mentioned, what  lessons were learned and how do you intend to learn from it?

There are a couple of lessons we learned from the Golden Era. These airplanes you mentioned are very formidable. In fact, there is a popular saying in the Air Force that they were ahead of their time. They had a lot of technology and computerisation. However, if you look at their lifespan, they didn’t fly for long in the Nigerian Air Force before getting grounded. The same thing happened with the 21s; they didn’t fly for long before also being grounded. The only airplane that has been sustained from inception till date is the Alpha Jet. There are lessons to learn from that.

Normally, the lifespan of an airplane is about 40 years. If you introduce an airplane into the system, you can effectively operate it for about 40 years before its life starts to expire. However, these airplanes didn’t even fly for 10 years before they were grounded. This was essentially because we did not have enough training to maintain them, and we also had issues with spare parts. When the military regime came, we faced a lot of sanctions and couldn’t get the spares to fly them. Over time, this situation deteriorated.

By the time the sanctions were lifted a couple of decades later, the resources needed to bring these airplanes back to operational status were equivalent to buying new ones, making it not worth it. The lesson here is reflected in one of the key drivers of my philosophy, which is research and development. The ultimate aim is to wean ourselves off dependence on foreign vendors because that is the only way. If we had enough technical capacity to maintain them, we probably would still be flying them today.

The only way forward is to strive for independence. This involves true technology transfer, acquisition, and reverse engineering. The goal is to be self-sufficient and produce what we need so we are not completely dependent on foreign vendors. These are some of the lessons, and these are the strategies we are adopting to prevent similar issues from happening in the future.

Do we foresee a time in the future when the Nigerian Air Force will be capable of assembling an aircraft from start to finish that can fly? If so, is this something we can anticipate happening anytime soon?

Certainly, as a matter of fact, it has already happened in a way. You would have heard of the Air Beetle, I think that was in the 1980s. I trained with the Air Beetle primary flying training, which is ab-initio flying training, because they were completely fabricated in Nigeria. The Nigerian Air Force, in collaboration with Dornier Aviation Nigeria Aircraft Civilian Company in Kaduna, undertook this project.

 However, like in airplane manufacturing, you don’t produce everything completely in-house. Usually, there’s an engine manufacturer and a landing gear manufacturer, so you buy those components. The entity that is the airplane manufacturer designs the airframe, assembles these components, and produces the airplane.

In that respect, we can say that we have been able to design and produce an airplane because the scheme and the airplane were completely fabricated and assembled in Nigeria. Only the engine, propeller, and some other components were imported. The Nigerian Air Force procured about 60 of these airplanes. 

However, something happened along the line. When you manufacture an airplane, you must keep refining it, just like any other product. You use it, test it, and then the next version is a refined one. You keep refining it until you get something optimal that you can even export. Unfortunately, that process was not followed with the Air Beetle, and we stopped manufacturing. The workshop is still there in Kaduna, but it’s closed, and nobody is there.

To answer your question, we have actually been able to produce an airplane. Additionally, you would have also heard of the Tsaigumi and the Gulma Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). The Gulma was the first one, unveiled in 2013/2014. This is a command area vehicle that was designed and fabricated completely by the research efforts of the Nigerian Air Force without any civilian or external components. Before then, we had a lot of engineering graduates in the Nigerian Air Force, and we needed to utilise their skills in designing, research, and deployment. These individuals were sent out for further education, many obtaining master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Vehicle Design and other aspects of Aviation.

When they returned, their task was to design and manufacture a command area vehicle. They successfully created the first prototype, called Gulma, which was demonstrated in flight at the Kaduna airfield. It flew around, and we kept refining it. The refined, optimal version came out in 2018, which we call the Tsaigumi, which has demonstrated its flying characteristics and potential operational uses. 

However, there is a gap in the avionics and integration components, specifically with cameras, GPS, communication, and navigation systems. We didn’t have sufficient capability to integrate all those components to make it formidable in terms of robotic operation.

We had to partner a foreign company in Portugal. The Ministry of Defence has already signed the contract, and we’ve paid our counterpart funding to cover the gaps in avionics components and make the Tsaigumi UAV operational. The initial contract involves producing six models, and hopefully, either towards the end of this year or by next year, the first operational models will be in our inventory. We have a lot of capability and capacity, but there are still gaps here and there. We are already manufacturing, and we only need to close these gaps to do much more.

The NAF has been known for championing Inclusiveness, especially with the infusion of female pilots that are doing great in their field. How far has that gone on at the moment?

Right now, we have a significant number of female pilots. Some are even instructors in the school here. In my era, females who joined the service were often relegated to roles in catering, medicals, or the band. It’s completely different now. Every young female coming into the Air Force has a choice. She can be a pilot.

In fact, we have about two of them who are fighter pilots. They flew the Alpha Jet- Oni and Sanni. Both of them are pilots now, and many more are joining. In the past, the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) could not admit females. Not until recently, so the only way for females to enter the service was through the Direct Short Service. 

The principle of Direct Short Service recruitment is that you come with your degree already. You’re employed based on your knowledge and skill to fill a gap in the system. For example, if you’re a doctor or an educator, you’ll go into that role because you are enlisted to perform that particular function. All the people coming from the NDA can choose any career in the Air Force from the entry.

Now, females are coming from the NDA, and we’re beginning to see them entering combat roles and other fields in the Air Force, such as air traffic control and similar positions.

You have been Air Chief for 11 months now. At the point of entry, did you set any targets for yourself that, looking back today, you have yet to achieve?

As a matter of fact, I think the targets we have set for ourselves have been largely achieved in terms of aircraft. The only challenge limiting further progress is the availability of resources. If we had more resources, we would have been able to achieve more. Looking back at what we’ve accomplished in the past year, I believe we have done more than was expected of us.

would like to speak to the issue of preparedness and readiness. I’d like to cite the latest incident in Iran, involving their president and the recent air mishap. Iran, despite its strategic capabilities, struggled to locate the incident and faced political challenges, including the lack of night vision equipment. How prepared is the Nigerian Air Force in terms of responding to emergencies?

This is a very tough question. First, you talked about how prepared we are in terms of responding to emergencies. Initially, we focus on preventing accidents and incidents. That is our first strategy, and in that regard, we have had our own share of challenges. Just this year, we lost two airplanes—one in Port Harcourt and one in Kaduna. Fortunately, all the people escaped except one of our firefighters who was injured. 

Last year, it was even worse. Our strategy regarding incidents and accidents is to first ensure they don’t happen. We are trying to implement strategies to prevent these occurrences. As they say, an accident is a chain of events rather than a single incident. One thing leads to another until it results in an accident. If a system, facility, intervention, or individual action breaks the chain at any point, the accident or incident can be prevented.

We apply this theory to prevent accidents from occurring in the first place. To see the chain of events, we need exposure to identify safety issues and resolve them. We have tried to institutionalise a safety culture in Nigeria from the grassroots to the highest level, ensuring everyone is equipped with safety knowledge. If we have a safety culture, it means everyone is looking out for each other, covering all aspects such as domestic safety, aviation safety, and operational safety.

When everyone is conscious of safety issues through training or exposure, it becomes harder for an accident chain to progress. We have ensured that every personnel in the Air Force, from the lowest to the highest levels, has some exposure to safety training. We created a safety institution that offers professional safety training. Additionally, since not everyone in the Air Force can attend this institution due to capacity, we have integrated safety training into every Nigerian Air Force institution at various levels.

For example, new recruits are exposed to safety training as they enter the Air Force. Subsequent training at every level and institution includes a safety module. This ensures everyone is aware of potential safety issues in their environment, increasing the chances of breaking the accident chain. At the operational level, we have done extensive operational safety training and are in the process of accrediting our programs to provide professional training for civilians and others.

In various units, we have established safety cells. For instance, at a wing level in the Air Force, we have a wing safety cell consisting of individuals with safety training. Their job is to monitor and address safety issues in their wing. At the group level, we have safety committees, and at the command level, we have safety action groups. Even at the headquarters, we have a safety board to address all safety issues and develop policies to resolve them.

This is how robust our safety strategy is to prevent incidents and accidents. If accidents do occur, we have a unit trained and equipped for combat search and rescue. This unit comprises over 150 officers and men trained outside the country with specialised skills and equipment to conduct combat search and rescue in challenging domains. Despite some equipment challenges, we have the personnel and basic equipment to carry out these operations efficiently.

You’ve discussed acquisitions, including the Super Tucano, which Nigerians have celebrated. Possessing them differs from effectively employing them. We understand security constraints, but are these aircraft being utilised efficiently as you replenish your fleet? 

The issue of the Super Tucano is complex. No country will manufacture a weapon system and give it to you with complete capability, as that would not be smart. Especially from countries like the United States, their foreign policy plays a significant role. They consider your capability, history, and many other factors before providing a certain type of capability. For example, the capability that the United States gives to the United Kingdom for the same asset, like the Super Tucano, will likely differ from what they provide to Nigeria.

You may not get the full extent of what the airplane is capable of, but you will get what is adequate. There are other issues that affect the operation of the Super Tucano. It is essentially a conventional airplane designed to carry out conventional operations. It carries bombs, rockets, and has cannons, which are typical conventional weapons. It is also capable of precision strikes. However, the type of operations we conduct usually involve an adversary that is very mobile and does not stay in one place, requiring tracking, monitoring, and targeting.

One limitation is the response time. By the time you get information about the adversary’s location and scramble a Super Tucano, an Alpha Jet could reach the location in about one-fourth the time. There is also the issue of noise. The Super Tucano is a turboprop airplane, and turboprop airplanes are usually very noisy. The adversary, who is very smart, can hear the airplane from afar and disappear before you arrive.

Additionally, you cannot use conventional weapons like the 100 kg bomb it carries due to the risk of civilian casualties. We are left using precision weapons, which are dangerously expensive. These missiles can cost as much as $200,000 each, so the target must be worth it before expending such weapons. These are just some limitations. It’s not that the airplane is ineffective; we are using it effectively in the roles suited for it. However, in the kind of operations we currently conduct, it has some limitations.

Despite these challenges, the Super Tucano is a very good and successful airplane. It performs well in the roles we deploy it for, based on its perceived limitations and advantages. Like every other asset, it is optimised for certain operations while others are optimised for different operations. As they say, all design is a compromise. It’s not a completely bad story; it’s still a formidable asset with its limitations, particularly in the type of operations we are conducting currently.

On another note, today marks two years since the tragic loss of some of your officers, including the former chief of army staff, in an aircraft incident in Kaduna. How does the air force respond to such incidents concerning personnel tragically lost?

Regarding our personnel who may have died in crashes, the federal government has an insurance policy. There are many benefits and packages available to the personnel and their families.

At the moment, our airspace has been too busy. From the Nigerian Army to the Navy and even the Police when it’s the primary responsibility of the NAF. We’re not just talking about planes; with the advent of command drones, the VSS is also involved. Recently, the NIS purchased command devices, raising questions about how we can manage this airspace. I know that the Nigerian Air Force manages some of the assets for these forces. Can you speak to us about this and discuss how safe it is for these gadgets to be flying above civilians?

It’s not only the security services that use drones. Many civilian organisations also operate them. This is a concern, but it is manageable. All necessary facilities are in place, and drones have many uses. They are very versatile, so managing their airspace operations is key. The office of the national security officer oversees a committee that scrutinises civilian drone use. This committee ensures that we know the purpose, capabilities, and operator proficiency before issuing licenses. The process is restrictive, requiring proof of capability and knowledge before a license is granted. For the armed services, each branch fulfills its constitutional mandate and procures assets as needed. If the Army needs a drone or helicopter to carry out its duties, it can purchase these assets. For over a decade, there have been no issues with this system. The crucial aspect is managing the shared airspace effectively. Some assets are exclusively operated by the Air Force, but others can be used by different services without conflict.  The main challenge is airspace management. Proper regulation is essential, even for civil air travel, to ensure safety. With proper management, this should not pose a problem.

About AVM Hassan Bala Abubakar Born on September 11, 1970, AVM Hassan Abubakar hails from Shanono Local Government Area of Kano State. He enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 39 and was commissioned Pilot Officer on September 19, 1992.AVM Abubakar has attended several courses, among which are Ab-initio and Basic Flying Training Courses at the then 301 Flying Training School, Kaduna; Basic and Advance Airborne Courses at the Nigerian Army Infantry Centre and School, Jaji; and Company Amphibious Operations Course at the Nigerian Army Infantry Centre and School, Calabar. Others include Junior and Senior Command and Staff Courses at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, and National Defence Course at the Nasser Higher Military Academy, Cairo, Egypt.Previous appointments held by the CAS include Officer Commanding B Squadron (Do 228), 81 Air Maritime Group NAF Benin; Team Leader MILOB Team Site 615 Mahagi (Ituri Brigade) United Nations Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC); and Aviation Planning Officer, MONUC Air Operations Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. He was Commanding Officer Base Services Wing 81 Air Maritime Group Benin, and later served at different times at the 88 Military Airlift Group, Ikeja, where he held various appointments, including Operations Officer Operational Conversion Unit, Operations Officer, Commanding Officer 21 Wing, and Group Safety Officer. Furthermore, he was Fleet Operation Officer 011Presidential Air Fleet, and thereafter served as the Commander of the Unit. His other appointments include Chief of Staff, Mobility Command, Yenagoa; Air Officer Commanding Logistics Command, Ikeja, as well as Director of Policy, and Director of Operations, both at the Headquarters Nigerian Air Force, Abuja. AVM Abubakar has earned several awards and decoration, some of which include Distinguished Service Star (DSS), Passed Staff Course (psc), and Fellow Defence College (fdc). He is a member of the National Institute of Management, Chartered Institute of Public Management, and Nigerian Institute of Safety Professional. The Chief holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biological Science from NDA, and Masters Degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

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