The Nigerian Air Force, NAF, has reorganised its air combat structure in the North-east for increased operational efficiency.
The Chief of the Air Staff, CAS, Sadique Abubakar, disclosed this during his opening remarks at the CAS Fourth Quarter Conference, which commenced at NAF Headquarters on Monday.
According to the CAS, the Air Component Commander has been replaced with a Commander Air Task Force (CATF), an Air Vice Marshal (a 2-star General), who reports to the overall Theatre Commander.
The new CATF is Idi Lubo, who was serving as the Air Component Commander. The NAF has also appointed three Divisional Air Liaison Officers (DALO) for the 3 Armoured Division as well as 7 and 8 Divisions of the Nigerian Army in the North-east. The whole idea is to ensure a better coordination of air efforts with ground operations.
Besides, the NAF has appointed an Air Liaison Officer for the Theatre Command to further limit the possibility of gaps in operations.
Mr. Abubakar further stated that a Nigerian female pilot, for the first time in the history of the NAF, was on the way to the United States Air Force for training as a fighter pilot. The female pilot had earlier this year graduated as the overall best pilot during ab-initio training at 401 Flying Training School Kaduna.
In terms of progress made by the NAF in the preceding 3 months, the CAS indicated that 24 pilots had completed their training and would soon be deployed for operational duties.
The NAF had also reactivated additional platforms which had been deployed for operations in the Northeast. In particular, one Bell 412 Helicopter had been added to the NAF fleet while work on the second Bell Helicopter would be completed before the end of December 2017. Additionally, one Mi-35P Helicopter would be ready for operation before the end of January 2018, as the overhauled engines needed for its reactivation had arrived in Nigeria.
Mr. Abubakar added that the reactivation was being done locally to further build the capacity of NAF technical personnel while equally saving cost. Accordingly, the NAF invited foreign technical experts to execute the project in conjunction with its engineers and technicians. The CAS further reported that two additional Mi-35M helicopters recently procured for the NAF by the federal government had been test flown in Russia and should be operational in Nigeria by February 2018. In all, five combat helicopters are being added to enhance ongoing NAF counterinsurgency efforts.
To boost the strategic and operational airlift capability of the NAF, Mr. Abubakar stated that the Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) of C-130H Aircraft NAF 917 had commenced in Lagos. The PDM was also being done locally by foreign technical experts in conjunction with NAF personnel towards building capacity of NAF technical personnel. Similarly, the Service life of C-130H aircraft NAF 913 had been successfully extended. In the area of Force Protection, the NAF was reported to have trained additional Regiment personnel as Special Forces and deployed them to the North-east for operations alongside other surface forces.
Moreover, the NAF had graduated the second set of participants from its Air War College in Makurdi. The new graduates are expected to add value to the service in general and in operational activities. In ending his opening remarks, the CAS enjoined the senior officers to be frank in their contributions, identify emerging challenges and proffer ways of further moving the NAF forward.
The aim of the CAS Fourth Quarter Conference 2017, which holds from December 11 to 12, is to appraise progress attained in the NAF since the last Quarterly meeting held in Kaduna three months ago. The idea behind the conference was also to obtain inputs from the bottom to the top such that ideas would be shared towards moving the NAF forward. Participants in the conference include the Commandant of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Branch Chiefs from HQ NAF, Air Officers Commanding, Group Managing Director of NAF Holding Company, Commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology Kaduna and all Air Vice Marshals serving in Abuja. Other participants were Managing Directors of various NAF companies, Directors from HQ NAF and NAF field commanders from its various bases. The conference is still ongoing in Abuja.