The efforts of the Nigerian Air Force to better reposition itself in the fight against insurgency in the North-East and insecurity in the South-South is yielding results.
This was disclosed by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar on Saturday during an interactive session with journalists in Abuja.
“As far as Nigeria security is concerned, the air force is doing everything possible in collaboration with other security agencies, particularly the army in the North East and North west and with the Navy and Army in the South-South.” Air Marshal Abubakar said.
According to the Air Force Chief, The Nigerian Air force has adopted and is currently executing operational strategies to boost the operational efficiency of the Nigerian Air Force while also improving the welfare of its airmen and some of the communities within its area of operation.
The strategies adopted by the Airforce to boost its overall operational capacities in the fight against insurgency and insecurity includes, Continuous training of its personnel and pilots, reactivation of Aircrafts and welfare improvement.
These strategies have led to the training of over 700 pilots in different parts of the world in the past 18 months to acquire relevant skills to be more effective in the fight against insecurity.
In his words, “If the pilots are not properly trained to fight, the chances are that they will not be effective. And that is why the sub strategy of training is very important”
He further disclosed that the Air Force has embarked on the reactivation of airplanes, and is currently on the reactivation of the 13th Aircraft ATF 42.
THE WHISTLER learned that the Airplane reactivation strategy of the Nigerian Air Force is aimed at bringing on-board airplanes that were not in active fight before the current administration.
Most of the airplanes the Air Force uses for training have been fitted with weapons and transformed into war planes owing to the difficulty in acquiring new planes due to political and bureaucratic bottlenecks that accompanies such venture.
Speaking on Air Force welfare program, the Air Chief said, “accommodation used to be a very big problem, although not totally solved, there are so many areas we need to address, but we’ve been able to address substantially some of the problems of accommodation particularly for Airmen”
“Somebody that is entrusted with a multi-million-dollar aircraft must have a place at least sleep and wake up so that he is organized to fly a mission, if he does not have a place to sleep and you entrust him with such expensive equipment, chances are that he may not be effective or he may not concentrate, or he might even end up losing both the airplane and his life. This is why the Air Force is taking the welfare of its airmen very seriously.”
Still on welfare, Air Marshal Abubakar also stated that not only has the Nigerian Airforce improved the welfare of its airmen, It has also engaged in outreach and intervention programs within communities it operates. These programs include building schools, providing water and accessible free medical care.
Some of the projects highlighted in its intervention program includes, Secondary School project in Sasha, Lagos State, Hospital in Bauchi, and skill acquisition program for youths living within the barracks.
The Air Force Chief added that the main objective of the Air Force strategy is to create an enabling environment for the land and surface forces to be able to operate with little or no hindrance.
“You cannot eliminate all threats to surface forces, what you can do is to soften the ground sufficiently so that the Army or Navy can move in to conduct their operations.”
The Chief of Air Staff also spoke on the incident involving Agusta AW 101 helicopter recently handed over to Nigerian Air Force from the presidential fleet by President Muhammadu Buhari, he said: “What happened in Makurdi was not a crash. Immediately we received it (the aircraft), we took one of them to Kaduna to paint it into desert camouflage. They removed the seal of the President and painted it into a combat machine.
“When they finished the painting, they were supposed to go to Maiduguri but they needed to go to Makurdi to pick certain things before proceeding to Maiduguri. So, the aircraft took off from Kaduna, landed perfectly in Makurdi. They were just taxiing to go and park when the incident happened. And the aircraft involved has high centre of gravity, I don’t want to pre-empt whatever investigation that is going on.
“It is not because the people flying the aircraft were not trained. Those same pilots were the ones that picked the 21 Chibok girls that were moved out in the night and brought them back to Maiduguri and from Maiduguri to Abuja. So, accidents happen and we are investigating to find out why it happened and we will make it public when we get the picture of what really happened.”
He rated the Nigerian Air Force pilots as well trained and competent.