Again, NAF Graduates Special Forces, Combat Rescuers
The drive of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to further bridge capacity and capability gaps in the fights against insurgency and armed banditry in the Country has received a fresh boost with the graduation of another batch of Special Forces (SF) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) personnel.
The Combined Graduation Ceremony, which took place today, 5 December 2020, at the Regiment Training Centre (RTC) Annex in Bauchi, comprised 162 students of the SF Course 7/2020 and 41 trainees of CSAR Course 3/2020.
The graduating SF Course is the ninth set to be trained by the NAF in the last 5 years, having conducted 7 SF Courses and 2 SF Instructors’ Courses, while the graduating CSAR Course is the third batch, following the graduation of the second set in May 2020.
Speaking during the graduation ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, charged the graduating participants to bring to bear the professional skills acquired, in the ongoing campaign to restore normalcy to restive parts of the Country.
According to him, the personnel were graduating at a time when the NAF and indeed the Nation were in dire need of their special skills. “Your job will not be an easy one as you would be required to operate under austere conditions and in hostile environments to ensure that the NAF achieves its objectives”, he said. He further stated that, in order to bridge the capability gap in SF and CSAR operations, the NAF established the Special Operations Command (SOC) with its Headquarters in Bauchi and Quick Response Groups/Wings (QRG/QRW) in Gusau, Owerri, Ipetu-Ijesha, Daura, Birnin Gwari, Agatu, Gembu and Lafia, amongst others. While acknowledging that the number of QRGs/QRWs was not yet adequate, the CAS observed that the establishment of these SF units provided the desired spread across the Country. This, he said, was in addition to the 205 CSAR Group (205 CSARG) in Kerang, Plateau State.
Speaking further, the CAS noted that, consolidating on the gains made, the Service recently activated the 203 Combat Reconnaissance Group in Gombe and 215 Forward Operating Base, Funtua, the establishment of which was approved earlier this month, for enhanced capability in providing timely and actionable intelligence to further contain insecurity in the Country. Air Marshal Abubakar disclosed that the NAF had, subsequently, trained over 1,200 personnel both overseas and locally in its bid to generate SF and CSAR teams to man the established units. According to him, international training partners were also engaged to train NAF personnel in order to sustain SF training in the NAF. Since its inception, the CAS said, the NAF SF has been used effectively for force protection, force projection as well as Base Defence, amongst others. “I am happy to note here today that our SF personnel have performed commendably well when deployed in conjunction with other security agencies in various theatres of operation. Their performance has proven that enhancing the capacity and capability of our personnel is the best way of ensuring the attainment of our operational goals and objectives”, he said.
The consideration to train CSAR operatives locally, the CAS revealed, was as a result of insufficient training slots and high cost of overseas training. He further disclosed that the Directorate of Regiment was accordingly tasked to develop a local training curriculum with the objective of ensuring that the NAF has personnel capable of rescuing downed aircrew in all terrains and weather conditions anywhere in Nigeria. “It is indeed gratifying to note that their training here is yielding the expected benefits. More so, it is evident that there is a remarkable improvement in the quality of training with the demonstration I earlier witnessed from both courses”, he said.
While congratulating the participants, the CAS urged them to imbibe the attributes of SF operatives, which include honesty, courage, perseverance and adaptability, among others. He also implored them to always remember the NAF’s core values of ‘Integrity’, ‘Service’ and ‘Excellence’ while on their future deployments as this would ensure success in their endeavours. While reminding the personnel that the scourge of COVID-19 was not yet over, the CAS noted that the NAF, in line with its constitutional role of providing Military Aid to Civil Authority, had been engaged in medical outreach programmes and provision of palliatives in all geo-political zones whilst also emplacing appropriate protective measures and embarking on aggressive enlightenment campaigns to educate personnel and their families on the dangers of the virus as well as how to prevent it.
Air Marshal Abubakar expressed his gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to the operational and other requirements of the NAF. The support, he said, especially in the areas of fleet reactivation and acquisition, training and improved welfare, has impacted positively on the overall performance and operational efficiency of the Service. “We therefore assure Mr President of our unalloyed loyalty and reiterate our commitment to continue to support the Federal Government in its policy thrust of providing security, improving the economy and fighting corruption in our dear country”, he reiterated. The CAS also commended the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Ground Training Command (GTC), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Idi Amin, as well as the Commandant RTC Annex and his team of instructors for working tirelessly to transform the personnel into SF and CSAR operatives. He encouraged them to continue with the excellent work, while promising that the Service would continue to provide them with the required support to position the NAF Regiment as an elite fighting force.
Earlier his welcome address, AOC GTC expressed gratitude to the CAS for the tremendous support as well as the landmark infrastructural facilities emplaced in units within the Command’s Area of Responsibility (AOR). These, he said, included Swimming Pools for training of SF personnel at Kaduna and Bauchi; a 40-Foot Rappelling Tower and Standard Obstacle Course for SF training in Bauchi; a new Commando Village for CSAR training at Ipetu-Ijesha as well as a newly-completed Administrative Block for the Air Provost Training Centre (APTC) and new, well-equipped Medical Centre at 205 CSARG Kerang, Plateau State. “These have gone a long way in enhancing the skill sets and welfare of our personnel as apparently seen during the demonstrations. These laudable contributions have also helped in increasing the capabilities of the SF operatives in assigned tasks in the various theatres of operation”, he said. The AOC highlighted that SF and CSAR trainings, the world over, are always made to be both physically and mentally rigorous to ensure that only the fittest of personnel with the right mental and physical strength, who can withstand difficult operational and environments, graduate as operatives. He disclosed that out of the 357 Regiment and Intelligence personnel screened for SF Course 7/2020, only 219 were inaugurated to commence the course, while 162 personnel, comprising 9 officers, 144 airmen and 9 airwomen graduated. Similarly, he remarked that the CSAR had 41 graduating students out of the 60 personnel that were inaugurated.
Highlights of the graduation ceremony were tactical demonstrations by the graduating students and other SF personnel. These included a maritime assault demonstration at the RTC Annex Training Pool; an obstacle crossing demonstration by NAF SF personnel as well as a KRAV MAGA (unarmed combat drill) demonstration. There was also an air-ground assault simulation exercise, which featured the rappelling of a joint NAF SF, CSAR and Canine (K-9) Team from a Bell 412 Helicopter into a hostile environment to rescue a downed pilot with covering fire provided by a helicopter backdoor gunner on an EC-135 Helicopter, which was executed with precision to the delight of all present. Awards were also presented to graduating students who had distinguished themselves on the 2 Courses.
Also present at the ceremony were the AOC SOC along with Branch Chiefs from Headquarters NAF, Commanders and Commandants of Nigerian Army and NAF Formations as well as Heads of Security Agencies in Bauchi and family members of the grandaunds.
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force
5 December 2020
NAF COMPLETES IN-COUNTRY REACTIVATION OF 2 ADDITIONAL L-39ZA AIRCRAFT TO BOOST COUNTERINSURGENCY OPERATIONS
In its continuing efforts to boost platform availability towards sustaining the high tempo of operations needed in the ongoing counterinsurgency campaigns, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has completed the in-country reactivation of 2 additional L-39ZA aircraft, in collaboration with the Original Equipment Manufacturers, Messrs Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic, with the active participation of NAF engineers and technicians. The handover ceremony of the 2 aircraft took place today, 4 December 2020, at the NAF 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS), Kano. The normalisation of in-country Life Extension Programmes (LEPs) on NAF aircraft, which is unprecedented in Nigeria’s history, is one of the noatable achievements of the current NAF Administration. The just-completed LEP on the 2 L-39ZA is just the latest in the series, and would further boost the number of available aircraft for the NAF to continue carrying out its constitutional roles.
Speaking during the acceptance flight and handover ceremony, the Guest of Honour, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, stated that reactivation work on a third L-39ZA aircraft was also progressing steadily, with the assurance that it would be completed and handed over the following week. The CAS further disclosed that there were also 3 other L-39ZA aircraft currently undergoing general overhaul and avionics upgrade at the Aero Vodochody Facility in Prague, Czech Republic, which were expected back in the Country before the Third Quarter of 2021. The CAS noted that the re-induction of these aircraft and others to be reactivated, along with the new platforms being acquired, would further enhance the NAF’s capability in dealing with the security challenges facing the Nation, especially in the North East, North West and North Central, which cover a vast expanse of about 705,000 square kilometres. The CAS however noted that security is not just about ‘aircraft, bombs, bullets and rockets’ but requires the involvement and cooperation of all citizens. He therefore enjoined all well-meaning Nigerians to key into what the Armed Forces and other security agencies are doing and support their efforts to rid the Nation of all its enemies.
Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar revealed that, as part of plans to further boost its aircraft serviceability status, the Service was on the verge of completing in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) and avionics upgrade of additional 2 Alpha-Jet aircraft at the 407 Air Combat Training Group, Kainji. He equally disclosed that 2 x F7-Ni aircraft were undergoing LEP in Makurdi, while 7 of same aircraft type were being air freighted to China for overhaul and avionics upgrade. “Plans are in top gear to carry out major inspection on the Mi-24V and A-109 helicopters, while arrangements for PDM on an additional C-130H (NAF 918) has been completed and work is scheduled to commence by the First Quarter of next year. This would bring to 3 the number of C-130H aircraft successfully reactivated in-Country, an unprecedented feat in the 56 years history of the NAF. Additionally, the Service just took delivery of an additional Mi-171E helicopter within the week. These are some of the modest achievements and plans of the Service in our quest to keep a formidable fleet of aircraft to meet the Nation’s air power needs”, the CAS said.
Air Marshal Abubakar noted that 403 FTS is tasked with the role of conducting Basic Pilot Training and Instructor Pilot Training on the fast jet aircraft. According to him, the role of the school was further expanded to support the counter insurgency operations in the Northeast and the anti-banditry operations in the Northwest. “I must say that the school has lived up to the expectations of the NAF as it has continued to produce top-notch pilots for the NAF and equally provided the needed air support for the various ongoing internal security operations. This year alone the School graduated 4 combat pilots even as 6 other Student Pilots (SPs) have attained over 90% completion of their training programme. The additional aircraft we are receiving today would enable the School to continue to operate optimally”, the CAS said.
The CAS further disclosed that the NAF would soon take delivery of 12 x Super Tucano attack aircraft and 3 x JF-17 multi-role fighter aircraft. He implored officers and men of 403 FTS to keep doing their jobs with the utmost dedication and professionalism they had always displayed. According to him, more than ever before, the Service needs the School to keep training fast jet pilots for the NAF to meet the manning requirements for the expected additional platforms. “Much as we have sacrificed, let us be propelled by the support and goodwill of all Nigerians to the NAF, to do more for our Nation”, the CAS added.
While congratulating the Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command (AOC ATC), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Musa Mukhtar, and the Commander of 403 FTS for the remarkable achievements, the CAS used the opportunity to express the NAF’s profound gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Honourable Minister of Defence and members of the National Assembly for their unrelenting support to ensure that the Service is equipped to contend with the contemporary security challenges despite the economic downturn. “We unreservedly tender our sincere appreciation to Mr President for this gesture and reaffirm our absolute loyalty to Mr President especially in his quest for peace and security in our dear Nation,” he said. The CAS also commended the efforts of the technical partners from Aero Vodochody as well as the participating NAF engineers and technicians for the timely delivery of the job.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Commander 403 FTS, Squadron Leader Mansur Yusuf, while appreciating the efforts of the CAS, stated that the reactivation and the release of aircraft to the NAF would undoubtedly boost capacity in the ongoing fight against insurgency and armed banditry in the Country whilst also adding value to the training of NAF pilots. He assured the CAS of the commitment of the personnel of 403 FTS to making safe and judicious use of the platforms such that the Service and indeed the Nation derive maximum benefits from the huge investment. “I believe that there is no better way to motivate pilots other than to give them airworthy and reliable airplanes to fly”, he said.
Highlight of the occasion was the acceptance flight of the newly-reactivated aircraft, featuring some aerobatic displays which were skillfully executed by NAF and Aero Vodochody pilots. This was preceded by the formal signing and handover of the aircraft documentation from the Aero Vodochody Technical Team to the NAF Chief of Aircraft Engineering (CAcE), AVM Musibau Olatunji. The CAcE subsequently handed the documentation over to the CAS, who in turn handed them over to the Chief of Training and Operations, AVM James Gwani, marking the release of the aircraft for deployment for training and operations roles. The landmark occasion also featured the commissioning of the 403 FTS Historical Gallery and ‘Hall of Fame’.
Also present at the event were other Branch Chiefs from Headquarters NAF as well as Commanders and Commandants of military units in Kano along with heads of security agencies in Kano and members of Management of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport.
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force
4 December 2020