For two months before the end of 2016, Economic Confidential and its sister publication PRNigeria have followed the activities of the Nigerian Air-force (NAF)through air travels to the North East to monitor the air component strategies deployed to tackle the menace of Boko-Haram Terrorist(BHTs).In this heartwarming discussion with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique B. Abubakar, Economic Confidential learnt among other achievements how the fighter jets flew 6000 hours, thus consuming about 10.5 million liters of Jet-A1 popularly known as Aviation fuel to degrade Boko- Haram. Our Managing Editor, Ewache Ajefu was there to capture the mood of the Air Chief. Excerpts:
Overview of 2016
In the year 2016, the NAF has participated in various operations in different parts of the country for the restoration of peace in the affected areas with a good measure of success.
These operations include OP SAFE HAVEN, OP AWATSE, OP SHARAN DAJI and Op LAFIYA DOLE amongst other operations to defeat militants, cattle rustlers/bandits and BHTs. The invaluable contributions of the NAF are significant to the attainment of the overall AFN mission end state. AFN have presently recaptured all the lost territories in the NE including the total liberation of the Sambisa Forest from the insurgents. It is therefore imperative to boost the AFN capacity to effectively sustain ongoing and future operations.
It is however pertinent to note that the major achievements recorded in 2016 by the NAF would not have been possible without the unrelenting support of the President and C-in-C of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari CFR.
The operations of air platforms is quite expensive. With the recession and serious decline in government revenue within the year, without the strong commitment of the Commander- in –Chief to a peaceful, stable and prosperous Nigeria, the NAF would not have received the much funding it had to operate satisfactorily in the performance of its national duties.
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in furtherance of its statutory roles of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria carried out various activities in 2016 which contributed greatly to the restoration of peace, security, humanitarian efforts and wellbeing of Nigerians. During this period, the NAF projected air power in various roles that softened the ground for the surface forces and led to the eventual decimation of the operational capability of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in the North East (NE).
Enhancing Operational Strategies of NAF Platforms
The bombing attacks and terror activities of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in the North East (NE), cattle rustlings/bandit activities in the North West (NW) and militant activities/oil vandalism in the South-South (SS) and South-West (SW) of the country warranted the deployment of Nigerian Armed Forces (AFN) to the affected regions to restore peace and security. Strategic roles of the NAF in these operations was force generation and ensuring combat readiness towards supporting surface forces.
Some of the efforts to enhance the operational effectiveness of these platforms in 2016 included: Upgrade of 3 A-Jet Weapons System. Three A-jet ac which were recently acquired by the NAF had no weapons system and were limited to only training roles. To enhance the NAF capability, the 3 ac were upgraded in-house with weapons system and deployed in active combat operations in the NE with high degree of performance; Upgrade of Mi-17 Helicopter. The acquired Mi-17 helicopter which was initially used only for SAR role was also upgraded in-house with weapons system. The helicopter was effectively deployed in several strike ops in the NE including night attack, which was not attainable with the helicopter before the upgrade; and Acquisition of Aircraft/Spares. Two new Mi-17 helicopter engines were recently acquired and installed.
Furthermore, 3x EC-135 hel were handed over to the NAF by NNPC in Mar 16. In collaboration with Aero-contractors Nigeria Ltd, 2 of the helicopters were reactivated. These included NAF 547 and NAF 548. Efforts are also on-going to carry out PDM/reactivation of 2x Mi-35P hel, NAF 530 and NAF 531.
Efforts at Arming Aircraft and Base Defence Vehicles. Suitable unarmed aircraft were armed, tested and effectively operated except the L-39ZA. Some of the efforts at arming aircraft and base defence vehicles include: (1) Construction of Pintle Mounts for 12.7mm BMG on EC-135 and Mi-17 Helicopters. (2) Arming of the L-39ZA aircraft with UB-16 launchers and Gesha-23 gun.
The sectarian crisis that erupted in Jan 10 in Jos Metropolis resulted in wanton destruction of lives and property. Consequently, the FGN instituted OP SAFE HAVEN, to restore nomalcy to Jos and Plateau State in general. NAF ground troops at 451 NAF Station Jos, and some surveillance aircraft are deeply involved in the Operation.
OP AWATSE was constituted to stop the menace of hoodlums and petroleum pipeline vandalism in the densely-forested swamps around Arepo, Elepete, Abule Oba, Ilara, Agbowa and Gbaga communities in Lagos and Ogun States.
The operation began on 27 Jul 16 with NAF platforms conducting ISR and aerial attacks in support of the surface forces employing the A-Jet, Beechcraft and Mi-24V helicopters. These aircraft recorded a total of 20 sorties and logged a total of 32 hours during the period under review.
OP DELTA SAFE: OP DELTA SAFE previously known as OP PULO SHIELD was mounted in response to the militant activities in the Niger Delta area. Although government efforts through military action and amnesty initially brought the militancy to an end, other criminal activities persisted with the collaboration of foreign nationals. Consequently, OP PULO SHIELD transmuted into OP DELTA SAFE to stop the menace of illegal bunkering, oil theft and pipeline vandalism. The NAF units involved in the operation are 115 SOG and 107 AMG while the platforms deployed include the A-Jet, Beechcraft, Mi-24V hel, EC-135 hel and the ATR-42 ac.
OP SHARAN DAJI: Following the growing menace of cattle rustlers in most parts of the NW Zone of Nigeria, the FGN instituted OP SHARAN DAJI. The operation, which is basically composed of troops from 1 Div NA and the NAF Training Command has the mandate of clearing bandit camps/hideouts of cattle rustlers and other criminal activities in the North West geo-political zone. The clearing operations have just been concluded in different States and some of the rustlers KIA, with recovery of some weapons and rustled animals. The NAF deployed the DA-42, Beechcraft 350i, A109LUH for ISR as well as patrol missions for this operation.
The A-Jet ac and Mi-24 hel gunships are also deployed for this operation from time to time. OP LAFIYA DOLE: In the year 2016, major achievements have been recorded under Op LAFIYA DOLE in the NE. Generally, the NAF air offensive operations substantially degraded the capacity and strength of the terrorists easing the surface forces operations and eventual liberation of Sambisa Forest. The Air Component comprising 103 STG located in Yola and 105 CG in Maiduguri has continued to conduct a wide range of operations in support of ground forces within the Theatre of Operations. These include ISR missions, Armed Recce (AR), Air Interdictions (AI) and Close Air Support (CAS) missions. Others are Combat Armed Patrols (CAP), CASEVAC, log re-sup missions and provision of Command Post. ISR missions by the Air Component are also supported by efforts of int operatives which have continued to provide real-time information on BHTs locations and activities throughout the theatre of operations. For the year under review, a total of 6,000 hrs was flown by NAF platforms translating to Jet A-1 fuel consumption of 10,525,945 liters.
In support of these operations, intensive ISR missions were conducted to monitor the activities within the known BHT strongholds in Sambisa Forest and Northern Borno prior to and during the operations. The NAF also conducted a 7 day intensive bombardment of BHT camps, logistics bases and equipment during NAF Op FOREST STORM. This initial air bombardment by NAF degraded the insurgents which laid the foundation for the ultimate collapse of the BHTs hold in the Sambisa forest. Support to OP RESCUE FINALE. Following the successful degradation of BHTs, the NAF in conjunction with NA commenced OP RESCUE FINALE from 1 Nov 16 into the stronghold of BHTs in Sambisa forest.
The NAF maintained constant presence overhead own troops by providing CAP and ISR while the ground troops were advancing in OP RESCUE FINALE.
The liaison missions conducted by the NAF during the period under review include the airlift of the Governor of Adamawa State from Mubi to Yola on 18 Apr 16. In addition, Mi-17 conducted psyops and info ops on 30 Apr 16 by dropping leaflets over BHT enclaves in Sambisa forest. Furthermore, one of the ‘Chibok girls’ was airlifted by the Super Puma aircraft from Damboa to Maiduguri on 18 May 16.
Also, the A109-LUH conducted liaison mission to Damboa and Chibok to convey the parents of the ‘Chibok girls’ to Maiduguri with the Mi-24V providing armed escort. Prominent among the liaison missions during the period was the airlift of Chief of the Air Staff, Governor of Borno State and a number of VIPs/dignitaries from Maiduguri to/from Bama by the Mi-17 hel for the commissioning of the NAF Emergency Hospital at the Bama IDP Camp on 22 Aug 16. Notable special missions conducted in Oct 16, include the successful extraction of 21 Chibok Girls from 12 –13 Oct 16. The 2 days operation comprises 6 missions flown in 13 sorties using one each of 5 ac types; Alpha Jet, Be-350 KA, Super Puma, AW101 and A109 LUH.
I want to say that we have been enjoying support from other countries. (Sometimes arm procurement) is shrouded in a lot of politics. Unfortunately, I’m not a politician, so I will not be able to say much on that. Pakistan has accepted to sell ten trainer airplanes.
“We have trained so many people in Pakistan, China. In the US, we have pilots that are training right now. We have additional pilots that are training in South Africa. We have more pilots that are training in the Egyptian Air Force and so many other places including Russia…We are really getting support,”
“We have flown hours with no incident. In terms of competence I can tell you that the Nigerian Air Force pilots are amongst the most competent. Because the training curriculum is very clear. And that is why now in the Air Force you look at the wings, pilots wear wings. We have categorized the wings according to their skill levels. We also organize simulation training for our pilots, we organize evaluation visits where pilots are evaluated without any notice.
“The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will ensure defeated terror group Boko Haram does not regroup in any part of the northeast as the military focuses on consolidating on the gains it recorded after the fall of Sambisa Forest.
We are monitoring every part of Sambisa forest to ensure that Boko Haram group does not regroup anywhere in the northeast as we enhance coordination with other Services, including the Army and the Navy for proper monitoring and effective control.
The NAF in its contribution to humanitarian operations in the NE established 2 NAF Emergency Hospitals. It has issued various directives for execution of humanitarian operations and continually reviewed its plans, particularly for management of over 2,165,000 IDPs located in various centres. The NAF has also been undertaking wide range of humanitarian support missions in conjunction with NEMA, Commission for Refugee Migrants and IDPs as well as other relevant humanitarian agencies
Training Activities for 2016
Emphasis was placed on courses essential for the career progression of personnel and critical for the performance of assigned NAF function in tackling the present security challenges. In most cases, courses that cannot be obtained locally were sourced abroad. The training activities which spread across all NAF trades with more emphasis on pilots, engineers, technicians and regiment personnel were grouped into 2 broad categories namely: Local and Foreign. The NAF in 2016 trained 869 of its personnel overseas including 101 pilots and 357 engineers/technicians while 4,868 were trained locally including 131 pilots and 643 engineers/technicians.
Provision of Residential Accommodation
In continuation of its efforts towards provision of decent residential accommodation, the NAF has constructed a number of residential accommodation for its personnel. During the period under review, 268 units of officers/airmen residential accommodation blocks have been constructed. These ranges from One-Bedroom, 2 and 3-Bedroom apartments for officers and airmen to cater for all categories of NAF personnel. A total of 2,418 personnel have been quartered in the new accommodation blocks. In addition 51 blocks of existing residential accommodation have been rehabilitated.
Similar accommodation were constructed in Yola, Port Harcourt, Benin, Kainji, Makurdi, Enugu, Bauchi, Lagos and Ipetu-Ijesha, Others are Kano, Jos and Abuja to mention a few. Additionally, several Officers’ Messes and Airmen Clubs have been constructed or renovated to provide recreational and sporting facilities for personnel. Furthermore, worship centres were provided or upgraded where required to cater for personnel spiritual needs.
In order to ensure the functionality of existing and newly constructed buildings, NAF has continued to provide potable water, electricity supply and access roads. In 2016, a total of 24 boreholes have been sunk in 14 locations. Additionally, 23 power generators ranging from 60KVA to 150KVA have been procured and installed at 33 NAF units. Furthermore, 7.5MVA and 5MVA transformers have been procured and installed in the bases in Abuja, Bauchi and Kano.
Educational and Health Facilities
Within the year 2016, a full-fledged boarding Air Force Girls’ Comprehensive School (AFGCS) was established in Abuja and a day secondary school has been built in Shasha Lagos while a primary school was established in Air Force Base, Minna. Air Force Secondary School (AFSS) Kaduna is being converted into a full boarding school while the facilities in existing secondary and primary schools have been upgraded.
In addition, Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), classroom blocks, lecture theatre, and departmental libraries have been constructed. Expanded infrastructures are equally being provided at NAF Institute of Safety, Kaduna. Additionally, a 60-bedded reference hospital has been constructed and awaiting commissioning. Contracts for the extension of apron and construction of taxiways and access road to operational area have also been awarded.
NAF Major Achievements in 2016
The achievements cover improvement in platforms and operational capabilities, infrastructural development, training and professionalism. Some of the major achievements of the NAF from January to December 2016 are as follows:
The induction of Super Mushshak ac (SMK) into the NAF inventory on 5 Dec 16 as a primary trainer ac; Acquisition of additional 2 new DA-40 ac in April 16, 2016; Reactivation of ATR-42 ac NAF 931 that was damaged about 2 years ago; Acquisition of A-Jet ac NAF 478 in addition to the operable 7 A-Jet ac fleet in Jun 16; Induction of 3x EC-135 helicopters handed over to the NAF by NNPC in Mar 16.; Acquisition of 2x Mi-35M helicopter with capabilities for night operations; Successful degradation of the insurgents and liberation of Sambisa Forest; Successful extraction of the Chibok Girls from Sambisa; Establishment NAF Emergency Hospital at the Bama IDP Camp and Weaponization of 3 x A-Jet aircraft. Others are; Upgrade of Mi-17 Helicopter for strike capability at night; Weaponization of Mi-17 Helicopters; Construction of Pintle Mounts for BMG 12.7mm guns on EC-135 Helicopter; Training of 1,020 personnel overseas and 4,868 locally; Training of 252 pilots and 357 Engrs/technicians overseas and 131 pilots and 643 Engr/technicians locally; Construction of 268 units of officers/airmen residential accommodation; Accommodation of 2,418 personnel and rehabilitation of 51 blocks of existing residential accommodation; A total of 24 boreholes sunk in 14 locations across the country; Procurement and installation of 23 power generators in 33 NAF units; Construction and resurfacing of 14km roads within NAF Bases in Kaduna and Abuja; Provision, maintenance and expansion of operational facilities such as hangars, aprons and taxiways in 531Aircraft Maintenance Depot, Lagos, 131 Engr Group, Makurdi, 103 Strike Group Yola, 401 Flying Training School, Kaduna and VIP Lounge at NAF Forward Operations Base, Daura, Katsina; Establishment of Air Force Girls Comprehensive School, Abuja; Construction of blocks of classrooms, lecture theatre and departmental libraries at AFIT; Construction of 5 blocks of recruits hostel/toilet blocks, a block of 12 x One-bedroom instructors accommodation, recruits dining hall and a 30 x One-Bedroom airmen instructors accommodation at GTC; Establishment of 5th NAF Command-Special Operations Command, Bauchi; Establishment of 60- bedded NAF Reference Hospital, Bauchi; Provision of digital interactive boards and computers in 12 NAF secondary schools across the country and donation of over 3,000 text books to IDPs in the North East.