In furtherance of its sustained efforts to boost Air Power employment capability against insurgency and other security challenges in the Country, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has reactivated and commissioned another Alpha Jet aircraft after Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM). The commissioning of the additional Alpha Jet, NAF 455, took place today, 21 March 2020, at the 407 Air Combat Training Group (407 ACTG), Kainji. The event also featured the inspection of the upgraded avionics equipment on the aircraft as well as a thrilling test flight with aerobatics display. In addition, a 2.8km road network traversing almost 80 percent of NAF Base Kainji and a Technicians’ Crew Room were commissioned.

Speaking during the ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the PDM, stated that the reactivation would go a long way in boosting the morale of troops on the frontlines and better equip the NAF in its drive to sustain the offensive initiative against the terrorists and insurgents. According to him, the in-house PDM, apart from being cost-effective when compared to the overseas option, also affords NAF technicians the opportunity to build better technical capacity. “It is worth mentioning that our NAF technicians were the major manpower for this PDM. The avionics upgrade, which is the first of its kind on the Alpha Jet, has also significantly improved the aircraft navigation and communications systems thus increasing safety, reliability and overall efficiency”, he added. The CAS noted that the challenge posed by lack of avionics spares, which accounted for over 60 per cent of the Alpha Jet critical spares, had also been addressed with the upgrade. The upgraded instruments and accessories, he said, were readily available in the market, thus ensuring availability of maintenance support spares which would translate to improved aircraft availability. The CAS added that under his watch the NAF, for the first time in its history, had successfully conducted in-country PDM on two C-130H aircraft (NAFs 917 and 913) in Lagos, while Life Extension Programme (LEP) was also successfully conducted on three L-39ZA aircraft in Kano. He further highlighted that an Mi-35P was also undergoing in-Country reactivation in Portharcourt, which would further boost aircraft availability for enhanced mission accomplishment.

Air Marshal Abubakar disclosed that the completion and subsequent commissioning of 2.8 km road infrastructure, which he highlighted was executed through direct labour by the NAF Directorate of Services, was one among many other welfare projects earmarked for Kainji. He stated that during his last tour round the Base, he observed the deplorable state of the road network and believed the Unit deserved better considering its importance to the NAF’s Air Power projection capability. He added that the completed road network as well as other ongoing projects would enable personnel of the Unit discharge their respective duties conveniently, thus translating to enhanced operational performance. The CAS further noted that the Base was also being positioned to efficiently support the A-29 Super Turcano aircraft when it arrives. “I can assure you that this robust infrastructural development would continue to take place in NAF Base Kainji”, he said.

Air Marshal Abubakar expressed his profound appreciation to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his gracious support to the NAF. He equally thanked the National Assembly, especially the Senate and House Committees on Defence and Air Force, for their continued support to the Service. While thanking the host community for the peaceful co-existence as well as their support to the NAF, the CAS promised that the Service would not rest on its oars until 407 ACTG, which is tasked with the important responsibility of training fighter pilots for the NAF, becomes a model Base.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command (AOC ATC), Air Vice Marshal Musa Muktar, who was represented by the Chief of Staff ATC, Air Commodore Abraham Adole, remarked that the commissioning of the reactivated aircraft and the welfare projects were inspiring demonstrations of a leadership whose top priority is to enhance NAF operations and promote morale of personnel through the provision of adequate platforms and enabling environment for effective service delivery. He noted that this would undoubtedly boost the NAF’s efforts in stemming the scourge of criminality bedeviling the Nation. While thanking the CAS for his commitment to the provision of infrastructure that would enhance personnel comfort and professional performance across the spectrum of NAF operations, the AOC pledged the commitment of the ATC as well as 407 ACTG to continue to do more to ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians.

After the unveiling of NAF 455 and inspection of the upgraded avionics in the cockpit, a Functional Check Flight (FCF) was conducted to further certify the aircraft fit for combat operations. The FCF, which also featured an exhilarating aerial display, was skillfully executed by the Commander 407 ACTG, Squadron Leader Kingsley Igwegbe, and Flying Officer Kafayat Sanni, the NAF’s first female fighter pilot, whose arrival from the flight was heralded by a traditional water salute. Present at the colourful event was the Emir of Borgu Kingdom, His Royal Highness, Barrister Muhammad Haliru Dantoro Kitoro IV, who commissioned the 2.8 Km Road Project and Technicians’ Crew Room. Other dignitaries included Branch Chiefs and Directors from Headquarters NAF as well as Commanders of Military Units and Heads of Para-Military Agencies in Kainji.

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