Some of the Achievements Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar Nigerian Airforce
Following the appointment of Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, in July 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari, the narrative of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has continued to change positively, particularly as the administration focused on securing the country and making it more conducive for citizens to go about their daily activities without any form of fear.
Air Marshal Abubakar, who came on board with the vision of repositioning the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives, has, within the last 4 years or so, recorded remarkable achievements in the fight against terrorism and other forms of criminality in the country.
This has been greatly facilitated by the acquisition of new platforms and reactivation of existing ones. The NAF has also witnessed enhanced professionalism through the expansion of its organizational structure and augmentation of its manpower strength. Tremendous progress has also been made in the areas of human capacity development, enhancement of personnel welfare as well as Research and Development (R&D).
FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISTS/ARMED BANDITS AND AIR POWER PROJECTION
The Nigerian nation has witnessed remarkable improvement in the security situation especially as regards the war against Boko Haram (BH), since 2015 when the current leadership came into power. As at early 2015, the BH Sect was in control of over 20 Local Government Areas in the Northeastern part of the country. However, the combined efforts of the Armed Forces, supported by other security agencies, have resulted in the liberation of virtually all of these territories from the Sect. The activities of the Sect are mainly limited to the fringes of Lake Chad and parts of Sambisa and Alagarno Forests. As a result, many erstwhile displaced persons have been able to return to their ancestral homes, as peace returned to the hitherto war-torn areas. The NAF also conducted several air raids in support of the Operation LAFIYA DOLE. Some of the independent operations include Operation RUWAN WUTA I – IV, Operation THUNDER STRIKE I and II as well as Operation GREEN SWEEP I to III.
In the fight against armed banditry in the Northwest, the NAF has deployed personnel along with air assets as part of the DHQ Operation SHARAN DAJI and now Operation HADARAN DAJI. It had also conducted dedicated air strikes against identified armed bandit locations under the auspices of Operation DIRAN MIKIYA.
In addition, the NAF also deployed some Special Forces elements that are fighting side by side with other Services and security agencies in the various Theatres of Operation. Also, in conjunction with other security agencies, the NAF has continued to provide close air support, air interdiction, in-Theatres liaison flights, medical and casualty evacuation as well as logistics re-supply of ammunitions, water, food and medicine.
In the past 4 years, the NAF has also scaled up its Communications and Information Systems (CIS) support for the various Theatres of Operation thereby enhancing Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) missions and improving the dissemination of intelligence. One of the major institutional frameworks established in this regard is the new Geospatial Intelligence Data Centre (GIDC) at HQ NAF, which is equipped with high-tech computer hardware and software, to improve capacity for acquisition, exploitation, analysis and interpretation of imagery and geospatial information to provide actionable intelligence for the Armed Forces and other security agencies.
In addition, the newly established Strategic Air Operations Centre (SAOC) would equally enhance the coordination of air operations across the country.
The Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) Kaduna, has recorded more Research and Development (R&D) breakthroughs, which were showcased during the 47th convocation ceremony. The projects included a prototype Oleo-Pneumatic Shock Absorber for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), an Automatic Solar Tracking System and a Rocket Launcher Circuit Test Box. Others were a prototype of Light Weight Helicopter, an Unmanned Hexacopter as well as the adaptation and installation of BO-105 Helicopter guns on the Bell 412 Helicopters recently handed over to the NAF by the Federal Government. The convocation ceremony also featured the award of diplomas and degree certificates to 257 graduating students comprising 102 NAF personnel, 2 Nigerian Army personnel, 3 Nigerian Navy personnel and 150 civilians.
In an effort to alleviate the sufferings of IDPs as well as win the hearts and minds of those affected by the activities of BHTs, the NAF established two Level 2 hospitals in Bama and Dalori, Borno State. The NAF also initiated a school feeding programme for 1,000 school children in the 2 IDP Camps. This has greatly contributed to the number of pupils that have returned to school in the area.
Similarly, the NAF, in a bid to strengthen better civil-military relations between the NAF and members of host communities, has continued to conduct medical outreaches all over the country and has so far treated over 300,000 people in different parts of the country in the last 4 years.
PROJECTION OF AIR POWER IN THE WEST AFRICAN SUB-REGION
NAF has been able to project Air Power beyond the shores of Nigeria. NAF Alpha Jets were the first and only fighter aircraft deployed in the Gambia to actualise the mandate of the Gambian people and facilitate the peaceful handover of political power to President Adama Barrow. The C-130s, flying the Nigerian flag, also transported humanitarian relief materials to the Sierra Leonean people after the unfortunate mudslides that affected that country in August 2017.
The Nigerian Air Force on 22 August, 2019 airlifted back to the Country no fewer than 133 Nigerians who took refuge in neighbouring Cameron. The returnees were airlifted with a NAF C-130H aircraft from the Moroua Salak International Airport in Cameroon’s Northern Region to Yola International Airport. This was in furtherance of NAF’s constitutional role of providing Military Aid to Civil Authority.
AIRCRAFT ACQUISITION AND REACTIVATION
In the last 4 years, the NAF fleets of aircraft have recorded unprecedented increase. The Federal Government has acquired 19 brand new aircraft to boost training and combat readiness of the NAF. These include 10 Super Mushshak trainer aircraft, 5 new Mi-35M Helicopters gunships, 2 Bell 412 helicopters and 2 Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopters. Beside these, 18 additional aircraft have also been ordered by the Federal Government, which include 12 Super Tucano attack aircraft, 3 JF-17 Thunder Multi-role fighter aircraft as well as 3 other helicopters – 2 more Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopters and one Agusta 139W utility helicopter.
In the same vein, 20 erstwhile grounded aircraft such as Falcon 900, ATR-42, Beechcraft, Super Puma, F-7Ni, EC-135 Do-228, Mi-24V, Mi-35P, C-130H and L-39ZA have been reactivated, with the reactivation of another 5 soon to be completed; 2 helicopters – one Mi-35P and a Dauphin – as well as 3 additional Alpha Jet aircraft. Indeed, for the first time in its history, the NAF is conducting multiple in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) of its platforms; C-130H in Lagos, 3 Alpha Jet aircraft in Kainji and 3 L-39ZA aircraft in Kano.
The acquisitions and reactivation as well as the emplacement of robust logistics support structure have enabled the NAF to raise the serviceability status of operable aircraft from about 35 per cent in 2015 to an average of about 80 per cent as at May 2019.
EXPANSION OF NAF STRUCTURE AND ENHANCEMENT OF MANPOWER
In the past 4 years, the NAF has expanded its force structure by creating 2 new branches, 2 new Field Commands as well as several new units including some Quick Response Groups and Wings (QRGs/QRWs), to bring security closer to the people of Nigeria. The 2 new Commands are the Special Operations Command which is located in Bauchi and the Ground Training Command which is located in Enugu.
The QRGs/QRWs and Regiment Groups, which are manned by NAF Regiment and Special Forces personnel, are located in Nguroje, Taraba State; Ipetu Ijesha, Osun State; Owerri, Imo State and Agatu, Benue State. Other locations where the NAF established new units include Kerang, Plateau State; Kastina, Katsina State; Gombe, Gombe State; Gusau, Zamfara State; Doma, Nassarawa State as well as Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State.
In order to optimally man the new structure for more effective and efficient employment of air power, the NAF embarked on massive recruitment resulting in the training of a total of about 7,693 young Nigerians as airmen/airwomen and 916 as officers, in the last 4 years. This has boosted the capacity of the Service to sufficiently curtail insecurity in the country, while also implicitly keying into the Federal Government policy of job creation for young Nigerians.
TRAINING AND CAPACITY BUILDING EFFORTS
In line with one of the key drivers of the CAS’ Vision, which deals with human capacity development and result-oriented training, the NAF has trained various officers and airmen/airwomen in different categories of air and ground crew. The NAF has winged 92 pilots in the last 4 years alone, while 117 other student pilots are currently undergoing training both within and outside the country. Worthy of particular mention is the female officer undergoing training in the United States of America to become the first female fighter pilot in the history of the NAF. Similarly, for the first time in the history of the NAF, another female pilot is currently undergoing training in South Africa to become the first NAF female helicopter pilot.
The NAF has also built several facilities to further enhance training and operations effectiveness. The NAF has built several shooting ranges. Also, training facilities at the Military Training Centre in Kaduna have been expanded to allow for the simultaneous training of recruits. At the moment, the NAF can train 2,500 simultaneously as against the previous 500.
Similarly, the enhancement of training facilities at the 401 Flying Training School (401 FTS) Kaduna has improved the training capacity of the school by about 700 per cent. As a result, for the first time in about 3 decades, the school was able to complete ab-initio flying training for cadets before their commissioning as officers.
Another major achievement, in terms of capacity building, was the conduct of a live weapons firing meet featuring all NAF combat aircraft, which took place at the Kwanev Range in Benue State during the 2017 NAF Day Celebrations for the first time in about 30 years. NAF has also significantly boosted the capacity of its Regiment and Special Forces (SF) with additional training and equipment to improve operations in the fight against insurgency and other forms of criminality.
Since 2015, NAF has tripled the number of SF personnel to a 1,000-strong well-trained, well-kitted and well-motivated force capable of conducting specialized operations, either independently or in concert with other Services thereby successfully bridging the gap between Air Power projection and force protection.
The overall strength of NAF Regiment personnel has also been increased from less than 1,000 to about 4,000, with about 2,250 of these trained in Force Protection in Complex Air Ground Environment (FPCAGE) by the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT). Other areas that have received significant capacity boost include the training of engineers and technicians, Information Technology, K-9 Unit, medical personnel as well as criminal investigation and forensics, among others. The NAF has also established a Pipe Band ensemble to add colour and compliment ceremonial parades and functions.
INFRATSRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPROVEMENT OF PERSONNEL WELFARE
President Muhammadu Buhari on 15 August 2019, commissioned a 60-bed ultra-modern Nigerian Air Force Reference Hospital in Daura, Kastina State. The 60-bed Hospital consists of an Accident and Emergency Unit, Intensive Care Unit, Twin Theatres, Radio Diagnostic Unit as well as Renal Dialysis, Ophthalmic, Dental, Physiotherapy, Maternal and New Born Units in addition to a Mortuary. It is also equipped with modern diagnostic and Life Support equipment intended to provide medical care to critically ill patients such as those wounded in combat. The President had also commissioned a NAF Reference Hospital in Bauchi State on 26 April 2018.
Under his leadership, the NAF also upgraded medical equipment at its various medical centres around the country, with new Cancer Screening Centres established in Bauchi, Kaduna, Maiduguri and Makurdi. The NAF medical hospital in Port Harcourt was also upgraded to a Reference Hospital. Moreover, in the last 4 years, the NAF has renovated/remodeled and constructed new blocks of classrooms and hostel accommodations in existing NAF schools across NAF units while establishing 2 new secondary schools.
These are the Air Force Girls Comprehensive School Abuja and the Air Force Secondary School (AFSS) Shasha, Lagos. AFSS Kaduna was also upgraded to a boarding school and renamed Air Force Comprehensive School Kaduna. In addition, the NAF, through massive construction of residential accommodation, has been able to raise accommodation sufficiency from 35 to about 72 per cent, despite almost doubling the strength of its personnel in the last 4 years. In all, the NAF has executed over 900 infrastructure projects including office and residential accommodations, messes and recreational facilities as well as schools and hospitals, amongst others.
The NAF has also established a very robust Post-Service Housing Programme to address the housing needs of officers and airmen/ airwomen as they prepare for retirement. The programme is managed by the Nigerian Air Force Housing and Construction Company Ltd (NAFHCC), which is a subsidiary of the Nigerian Air Force Holding Company (NAFHC). Some of its successful projects include the NAF Valley Housing Estates 1 and 2 in Asokoro, NAF Harmony Estate in Porthacourt, NAF Unity Estate in Kuje, NAF Diamond Estate in Nasarawa State and NAF Eagle Estate in Bwari. The objective is to ease the burden of post-Service life settlement for NAF personnel.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT BREAKTHROUGHS
The NAF, in the last 4 years, has invested greatly in R&D so as to develop unprecedented capacity to surmount current and emerging security challenges. Some of the R&D breakthroughs recorded include the production of the first NAF indigenous operational Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), named Tsaigunmi, which was inducted into the NAF by President Mohammadu Buhari in February 2018. Others are the receipt of patent rights for the production of the Unmanned Ground Vehicle as well as the production of the hydraulic accumulator diaphragm for the Mi-35 helicopter.
The Service also locally weaponized several platforms including the Mi-17 helicopter, 2 x Bell 412 helicopters, 2 x EC-135 helicopters, L-39ZA trainer aircraft and 3 x Alpha Jet aircraft, whose weapon systems were reconfigured to carry not only the Western bloc rocket launchers but also Eastern bloc rocket launchers. In addition, the NAF designed/produced a test bench for the Alpha Jet anti-skid system and locally produced 30.1mm rocket launcher/ rockets as well as a Foreign Object Damage (FOD) debris Picker for use on the flight line and heat shield protective cone for Alpha Jet rocket pods.
Through the initiative of the CAS, the AFRDC successfully installed the Gesha 23mm gun of the decommissioned MiG-21 aircraft on an Hilux vehicle and also produced two 6-tube rocket launcher for the Bell-412 helicopter.