The Nigerian Air Force has commenced the 2019 First Quarter Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Conference at Headquarters NAF Abuja.
The Director Public Relations and Information, NAF Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola noted that the CAS Conference is a quarterly meeting of Branch Chiefs, Air Officers Commanding (AOC) from the 6 NAF Commands, Directors and field Commanders which aims at appraising achievements, challenges and projections across NAF Commands and unit in order to ensure enhanced operational effectiveness and efficiency.
Daramola added that it equally provides an avenue to obtain feedback from various field commanders while also keeping them abreast of the policy direction of HQ NAF in the months ahead.
During his address, the CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, expressed excitement over the number of aircraft that had been acquired in the last 3 and half years, while announcing that the NAF would soon take delivery of the Agusta 109 Power Helicopter Gunship from Italy.
He added that when the Gunship arrives, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, would be invited to induct the aircraft into the Service to further boost efforts to ensure adequate security in the North West zone, particularly in Zamfara, Sokoto and some parts of Kaduna State.
Apart from acquisition of aircraft, the CAS stated that the Service has also made commendable achievements in the reactivation of aircraft.
According to him, the NAF has so far reactivated 13 erstwhile unserviceable aircraft and was currently carrying out reactivation of another 8.
He explained that three L39 trainer aircraft were undergoing a Life Extension Programme (LEP) in Kano, while a Mi 35P and another EC 135 Light Utility Helicopter was also undergoing LEP in Port Harcourt.
The CAS also mentioned that the overhaul of 3 Alpha Jet aircraft, which started in Kainji late last year, would be completed by the end of the year.
“I believe that these efforts would substantially add to the capacity of the Service to better secure the country,” he said.
Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar reiterated the commitment of the NAF towards bridging the gap between Force Projection and Force Protection as exemplified through the training of about 4,000 Regiment personnel and over 1,000 Special Forces (SF) personnel locally and abroad, with assistance from the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT) and other foreign partners.
Out of the 1,000 SF personnel, he noted that 300 were deployed for internal security operations in Zamfara State and another 300 deployed to Benue State under the Defence Headquarters’ Operation WHIRL STROKE.
He added that the NAF has also secured the approval of the Air Council to establish a new NAF Detachment at Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State.
“As a result the NAF has already provided a helicopter landing pad and fuelling facilities for NAF helicopters to operate in the area,” Daramola added.
The CAS noted that the NAF, in the last 3 and half years, has expanded its organizational structure to more effectively deal with the current security challenges in the country.
“The expansion,” he said: “had led to the establishment of new Commands, Staff Branches and Directorates as well as Quick Response Groups and Wings (QRGs and QRWs) at various locations across the country, including the 21 QRW at Agatu in Benue State and 23 QRW at Gembu in Taraba State, to bring security closer to Nigerians.”
Air Marshal Abubakar, who used the opportunity to commend the professionalism displayed by NAF personnel during the recently concluded general elections, stated that the NAF, despite being brought in virtually at the last minute, was able to assist the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to airlift about 630,000 kg of electoral materials to 31 different locations in the country using 8 different aircraft.
The CAS highlighted that over 120 NAF personnel were involved to ensure the success of the massive logistics operation, which ensured the smooth conduct of both rounds of elections that had been concluded.
He added that the NAF, working with INEC, had already commenced airlift of materials for the forthcoming supplementary elections.
Air Marshal Abubakar also stated that, in continuation of the counter-terrorism air operations in the North East, the NAF, operating under the ambit of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), had conducted a number of joint missions with the Nigerien Air Force that had resulted in the recent successes recorded against the terrorists in the fringes of the Lake Chad.
The CAS concluded his remarks by highlighting that the NAF, which would be celebrating its 55th Anniversary in April, had come a long way from the civil war days when bombs had to be literally rolled out of aircraft to conduct interdiction missions, to the current situation where Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could be used to conduct precision strikes against terrorist targets over 250Km away.
He reiterated NAF’s resolve to continue to work assiduously to ensure the peace and prosperity of a united Nigeria.