The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Monday took delivery of two Mi-35M helicopter gunships that the federal government ordered from Russia.
The Antonov aircraft, which brought the new Mi-35M helicopters, touched down on the runway at NAF Base Makurdi at exactly 12.20 p.m. The Chief of Aircraft Engineering at NAF Headquarters, Abdulganiyu Olabisi, received the new aircraft on behalf of the Chief of the Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar.
A combined team of NAF personnel and Russian technicians were also on hand to assist in offloading the partially assembled new helicopters, some parts of which came in crates. Also, officials of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigeria Immigration Service were present to ensure necessary documentation.
The newly delivered helicopters, which are capable of night fighting, are all brand new and are the most sophisticated in the Mi-series of helicopter gunships, the air force said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
The newly received combat helicopters form the second batch of the fleet of Mi-35M helicopters initiated by the Buhari administration in 2015.
“At the inception of the current NAF leadership in 2015, it was realised that modern Mi-helicopter gunships with night-fighting capability needed to be procured towards enhancing the operational capability of the NAF.
“Consequently, the delivery of the helicopter gunships would go a long way in adding impetus to the current efforts at combatting the security challenges in Benue State and other parts of the North Central Region as well as other forms of criminality facing the country. In addition, with the delivery of the additional Mi-35M helicopters, the on-going counterinsurgency operation in the Northeast has just received a boost,” Olatokunbo Adesanya, air force spokesperson said.
The air force took delivery of the first batch of two brand new Mi-35M helicopters in December 2016, following which the helicopters were inducted and had since been contributing to the counterinsurgency and other internal security operations in the country.
Also, some NAF personnel had undergone training in Russia, as pilots and technicians on the Mi-35M helicopters, as part of the contract. Sequel to the hitch-free delivery, a team of Russian and NAF technicians will now complete the assembly of the newly received helicopters in Nigeria prior to test flying. Thereafter, the helicopter gunships will be formally inducted into the air force, as part of the activities to mark the 54th anniversary celebrations of the Service.
Meanwhile, as part of activities lined up to mark the air force 54th Anniversary Celebration, an Interdenominational Church Service was held on Sunday across all NAF Units and Abuja. In Abuja, the commemorative service was held at the Protestant Church, Bill Clinton Drive NAF Base, Abuja.
Earlier on April 27, the air force held a Juma’at Service at the NAF Central Mosque, NAF Base Abuja to commemorate the 2018 NAF Day celebration slated for May 3 to 16 in Kaduna.
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