The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has commended the Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LAFIYA DOLE (OPLD) for the successes recorded in its renewed offensive against Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT)/Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) elements in the North East of the Country under subsidiary Operations LONG REACH I and II, stating that he was pleased with the progress made so far. He however urged the ATF to sustain the onslaught in order to ensure total defeat of the terrorists. The CAS disclosed this today, 4 July 2020, while addressing personnel of the ATF at the end of his 3-day operational visit to Maiduguri to assess the conduct of the Counter-Insurgency Operation.
Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar, while conveying the appreciation of the entire NAF family to the ATF for its relentless efforts in the fight against insurgency, remarked that Operations LONG REACH I and II had been very fruitful in further destabilizing the BHTs’ new leadership and curtailing their freedom of action within the Theatre. He noted that this was the hallmark of successful air interdiction missions - “to destroy the enemies’ eggs in their nests before they can be brought to bear against friendly forces or innocent civilians”. According to him, “we are satisfied, we are very excited that you are making substantial progress in ensuring that the Boko Haram Terrorists are eliminated in the North East, so that our people can go back to their farms and live their normal lives”.
The CAS highlighted that the NAF’s ability to operate simultaneously in multiple Theatres of Operation, including the North East, North West and North Central, amongst others, were only made possible because of the Federal Government’s support to the Service, which had enabled it to acquire 22 brand new aircraft. He noted that this capability would be further boosted when the 16 other aircraft being expected; 12 Super Tucano attack aircraft, 3 JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter jets and an additional Mi-171E helicopter; are delivered. He disclosed that selected air and ground crews for the JF-17 Thunder had already started their training in Pakistan, while those nominated for the Super Tucano would soon commence their training. Air Marshal Abubakar equally revealed that the NAF’s operational capability had also been enhanced because it had been able to reactivate about 25 erstwhile grounded aircraft within the past 5 years. He highlighted that one of these was the ATR-42 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft (NAF 930), which had just returned to Nigeria after completing Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) in Germany. He added that the aircraft would soon be redeployed to the North East to further enhance the ATF’s intelligence gathering capabilities.
Air Marshal Abubakar therefore expressed appreciation to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the National Assembly for their support to the NAF towards meeting its air power goals. He equally thanked the Governments and people of the frontline States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa for their continued support to the Service. Air Marshal Abubakar also specially commended the ATF Commander, Air Commodore Precious Amadi, as well as his officers, airmen and airwomen for their hard work and dedication to duty which, he said, was evident in the intensive rate of effort, with missions being conducted day and night to attack terrorists’ targets as well as provide support to ground troops, whenever required. He emphasized that the existing synergy with the Nigerian Army and other security agencies must be strengthened to ensure total victory. He said the NAF Headquarters (HQ), on its part, would continue to provide the necessary support so that platforms are available, logistics requirements are promptly provided, personnel are adequately trained and personnel’s welfare needs are properly addressed to enable them execute their constitutionally assigned tasks more effectively and efficiently.
Before departing Maiduguri, the CAS, who was accompanied on the visit by the Chief of Training and Operations, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) James Gwani; Chief of Aircraft Engineering, AVM Musibau Olatunji; Chief of Logistics, AVM Mohammed Yakubu; as well as Directors from HQ NAF, took time to individually interact with the crews of all the NAF platforms deployed to the OPLD Theatre, including the Super Puma and Mi-35M Helicopter fleets; Alpha Jets and L-39ZA Jets; CH-3A Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) as well as the Beechcraft King Air and ATR-42 ISR aircraft crew members, where he again commended them for their consistent crucial roles in the fight against insurgency. He urged them to sustain the tempo of operations whilst continuing to display professionalism in the performance of their duties.
It would be recalled that the ATF of Operation LAFIYA DOLE conducted subsidiary Operation LONG REACH I from 16 - 27 June 2020 and commenced the currently ongoing Operation LONG REACH II on 2 July 2020.