About 24 hours after it was declared missing, the Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet is yet to be found.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the fighter jet went missing on Wednesday in the insurgency-ravaged Borno State in North-east Nigeria.
The spokesperson for the Nigerian Air Force, Edward Gabkwet, said the fighter jet lost contact with the radar in Borno State earlier that day.
Mr Gabkwet, an air commodore, said the plane disappeared while on interdiction mission in support of ground troops. He said the mission was part of the ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the North-east.
“The loss of radar contact occurred at about 5:08 pm on 31 March 2021,” he said.
“Details of the whereabouts of the aircraft or likely cause of contact loss are still sketchy but will be relayed to the general public as soon as they become clear. Meanwhile, search and rescue efforts are ongoing.”
More than 24 hours after it was declared missing, the Nigerian Air Force is yet to give an update on the whereabouts of the aircraft.
Efforts by this newspaper to reach Mr Gabkwet for an update on the incident were unsuccessful as he neither responded to telephone calls nor text messages.
An intelligence source who told PR Nigeria, an online newspaper, which reports mainly security issues, that bad weather could be blamed for the missing jet.
“Though no trace of the wreckage has been found, bad and hazy weather has been a stumbling block lately in the military operation. The trained combat pilots have always responded to distress calls and emergency situations in the protection of troops and the citizens from activities of terrorists in the North-east.
“We are still investigating and trying to find out what actually happened to the missing Alpha jet. Search and rescue operations have been intensified. But unfortunately, we are yet to see any trace of the jet in the forest areas we have combed, across Borno State.”
The newspaper also reported that the Chief of Air Staff, Oladayo Amao, arrived Maiduguri Thursday morning over the ongoing search and rescue efforts.
He was quoted to have told the officers and men to remain undeterred and resolute in their commitment to ensuring that peace returns to the North-east.
The latest aircraft incident comes weeks after another Air Force aircraft, a Beechcraft KingAir B350i, crashed after reporting engine failure on its way to Minna, Niger State.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the plane was heading to that destination to conduct surveillance missions over Niger State and its environs in connection with the efforts to secure the release of the students/staff abducted from the Government Science College Kagara, Niger State.
That February 21 crash led to the death of Haruna Gadzama, a flight lieutenant, (Captain), Henry Piyo, a flight liutenant (Co-Pilot), Micheal Okpara, a flying officer (Airborne Tactical Observation System (ATOS) Specialist), Bassey Etim, a warrant officer (ATOS Specialist), Olasunkanmi Olawunmi, a flight sergeant (ATOS Specialist), Ugochukwu Oluka a sergeant (ATOS Specialist) and Adewale Johnson, an aircraftman (Onboard Technician).
The Nigerian Air Force is involved in the anti-insurgency operation in the North-east as well as in the onslaught against bandits in the North-west and North-central geopolitical zones, providing reconnaissance intelligence and aerial covers for ground troops.
The Force also engages in bombardment of terrorists enclaves from time to time.
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