In its continuing efforts to boost platform availability towards sustaining the high tempo of operations needed in the ongoing counterinsurgency campaigns, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has completed the in-country reactivation of 2 additional L-39ZA aircraft, in collaboration with the Original Equipment Manufacturers, Messrs Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic, with the active participation of NAF engineers and technicians. The handover ceremony of the 2 aircraft took place today, 4 December 2020, at the NAF 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS), Kano. The normalisation of in-country Life Extension Programmes (LEPs) on NAF aircraft, which is unprecedented in Nigeria's history, is one of the noatable achievements of the current NAF Administration. The just-completed LEP on the 2 L-39ZA is just the latest in the series, and would further boost the number of available aircraft for the NAF to continue carrying out its constitutional roles.
Speaking during the acceptance flight and handover ceremony, the Guest of Honour, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, stated that reactivation work on a third L-39ZA aircraft was also progressing steadily, with the assurance that it would be completed and handed over the following week. The CAS further disclosed that there were also 3 other L-39ZA aircraft currently undergoing general overhaul and avionics upgrade at the Aero Vodochody Facility in Prague, Czech Republic, which were expected back in the Country before the Third Quarter of 2021. The CAS noted that the re-induction of these aircraft and others to be reactivated, along with the new platforms being acquired, would further enhance the NAF’s capability in dealing with the security challenges facing the Nation, especially in the North East, North West and North Central, which cover a vast expanse of about 705,000 square kilometres. The CAS however noted that security is not just about ‘aircraft, bombs, bullets and rockets’ but requires the involvement and cooperation of all citizens. He therefore enjoined all well-meaning Nigerians to key into what the Armed Forces and other security agencies are doing and support their efforts to rid the Nation of all its enemies.
Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar revealed that, as part of plans to further boost its aircraft serviceability status, the Service was on the verge of completing in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) and avionics upgrade of additional 2 Alpha-Jet aircraft at the 407 Air Combat Training Group, Kainji. He equally disclosed that 2 x F7-Ni aircraft were undergoing LEP in Makurdi, while 7 of same aircraft type were being air freighted to China for overhaul and avionics upgrade. “Plans are in top gear to carry out major inspection on the Mi-24V and A-109 helicopters, while arrangements for PDM on an additional C-130H (NAF 918) has been completed and work is scheduled to commence by the First Quarter of next year. This would bring to 3 the number of C-130H aircraft successfully reactivated in-Country, an unprecedented feat in the 56 years history of the NAF. Additionally, the Service just took delivery of an additional Mi-171E helicopter within the week. These are some of the modest achievements and plans of the Service in our quest to keep a formidable fleet of aircraft to meet the Nation’s air power needs”, the CAS said.
Air Marshal Abubakar noted that 403 FTS is tasked with the role of conducting Basic Pilot Training and Instructor Pilot Training on the fast jet aircraft. According to him, the role of the school was further expanded to support the counter insurgency operations in the Northeast and the anti-banditry operations in the Northwest. “I must say that the school has lived up to the expectations of the NAF as it has continued to produce top-notch pilots for the NAF and equally provided the needed air support for the various ongoing internal security operations. This year alone the School graduated 4 combat pilots even as 6 other Student Pilots (SPs) have attained over 90% completion of their training programme. The additional aircraft we are receiving today would enable the School to continue to operate optimally”, the CAS said.
The CAS further disclosed that the NAF would soon take delivery of 12 x Super Tucano attack aircraft and 3 x JF-17 multi-role fighter aircraft. He implored officers and men of 403 FTS to keep doing their jobs with the utmost dedication and professionalism they had always displayed. According to him, more than ever before, the Service needs the School to keep training fast jet pilots for the NAF to meet the manning requirements for the expected additional platforms. “Much as we have sacrificed, let us be propelled by the support and goodwill of all Nigerians to the NAF, to do more for our Nation”, the CAS added.
While congratulating the Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command (AOC ATC), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Musa Mukhtar, and the Commander of 403 FTS for the remarkable achievements, the CAS used the opportunity to express the NAF’s profound gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Honourable Minister of Defence and members of the National Assembly for their unrelenting support to ensure that the Service is equipped to contend with the contemporary security challenges despite the economic downturn. “We unreservedly tender our sincere appreciation to Mr President for this gesture and reaffirm our absolute loyalty to Mr President especially in his quest for peace and security in our dear Nation,” he said. The CAS also commended the efforts of the technical partners from Aero Vodochody as well as the participating NAF engineers and technicians for the timely delivery of the job.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Commander 403 FTS, Squadron Leader Mansur Yusuf, while appreciating the efforts of the CAS, stated that the reactivation and the release of aircraft to the NAF would undoubtedly boost capacity in the ongoing fight against insurgency and armed banditry in the Country whilst also adding value to the training of NAF pilots. He assured the CAS of the commitment of the personnel of 403 FTS to making safe and judicious use of the platforms such that the Service and indeed the Nation derive maximum benefits from the huge investment. “I believe that there is no better way to motivate pilots other than to give them airworthy and reliable airplanes to fly”, he said.
Highlight of the occasion was the acceptance flight of the newly-reactivated aircraft, featuring some aerobatic displays which were skillfully executed by NAF and Aero Vodochody pilots. This was preceded by the formal signing and handover of the aircraft documentation from the Aero Vodochody Technical Team to the NAF Chief of Aircraft Engineering (CAcE), AVM Musibau Olatunji. The CAcE subsequently handed the documentation over to the CAS, who in turn handed them over to the Chief of Training and Operations, AVM James Gwani, marking the release of the aircraft for deployment for training and operations roles. The landmark occasion also featured the commissioning of the 403 FTS Historical Gallery and ‘Hall of Fame’.
Also present at the event were other Branch Chiefs from Headquarters NAF as well as Commanders and Commandants of military units in Kano along with heads of security agencies in Kano and members of Management of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport.