Molly Kilete, Abuja
Newly winged fighter pilots in the Nigerian Air Force(NAF), have been told to smoke out bandits, terrorists, and other criminals taking refuge in forests across the country to perpetrate their deadly acts.
The pilots have also been told to work harder and fly with more precision to meet up with the expectations of Nigerians in the various operational theatres.
Chief of the Air Staff(CAS), Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, have the charge at the combined graduation ceremony of Basic Flying Course 19A and Tactical Flying Course 24B held at the headquarters NAF Abuja.
The graduands who completed the Tactical Flying Course, include Kafayat Sanni, who was winged last year alongside the late Flying Office Tolulope Arotile, as NAF’s first female fighter pilots.
While urging the fighter pilots to give their best to the Service and the nation, Abubakar said “I must emphasize that, now that you have earned your Limited Combat Rating, you will be required to work harder and fly with more precision in order to meet up with the expectations of Nigerians in the various operational theatres. There shall be no hiding place for armed bandits or terrorists in any of our forests”.
“This ceremony is one in the series of remarkable strides of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) towards capacity building to reposition the Service into a highly professional and disciplined force that would respond swiftly to Nigeria’s security imperatives. Today, we have witnessed the decoration of four pilots with their basic pilot wings on completion of their Basic Flying Course and the award of Combat Rating to two operational pilots who have completed the Tactical Flying Course on the Alpha Jet aircraft”.
Speaking on the roles of the pilots in the counter terrorism war, Abubakar, said a total of 118 pilots have so far been winged since his assumption in office in line with his vision for human capacity building initiatives.
He said “as you are aware, human capacity development is one of the Key Drivers of my Vision and has received much attention since I assumed office as the Twentieth Chief of the Air Staff. This is evident in the number of personnel that have been trained in various courses, both locally and overseas. Indeed, today’s graduation brings the total number of new pilots winged since 2015 to 118, which is a glowing testament to the efficacy of our capacity building initiatives.
“These pilots have continued to add value to the efforts of the Service in dealing with security challenges in the North East, North West and other parts of the country. Moreover, it is noteworthy that, while a good number of NAF officers are currently undergoing various pilot training courses outside the country, our indigenous training institutions has continued to play a crucial role towards the attainment of our capacity building initiatives.
“It is therefore pleasing to note that 403 Flying Training School, Kano and 407 Air Combat Training Group, Kainji where the graduands were trained have continued to set the pace in the provision of high-quality fighter pilot training”.
Continuing he said “for the newly winged pilots, let me remind you that you cannot afford to rest on your oars at this time. You should be keenly aware that the feat you have achieved also comes with a burden of responsibility and so much will be expected of you not only by the NAF but indeed the Nigerian people whose scarce resources was used to train you.
“I therefore urge you to continue to give your best to the Service and the nation. The NAF cannot be strong and effective without our collective contributions no matter how modest they may be. Thus, you must be confident, courageous and patriotic in the discharge of your duties in the Ops theatres that you may be deployed to.
“For the operational pilots, I know the past 18 months have been particularly tedious with series of training sorties and several tactical maneuvers executed to the high standards expected of NAF fighter pilots. All these were aimed at giving you the requisite skills necessary to prepare you for the tasks ahead”.
“I must note, with pride that among the graduands of today’s ceremony is a female officer who was decorated barely one year ago as the first female fighter pilot in the NAF. She has indeed made history yet again, by successfully completing the Tactical Flying Training on the Alpha Jet aircraft.
“Together with her colleagues, they are now better trained and prepared to be deployed for combat missions in the ongoing counter-insurgency air operations in the North-East and other parts of the country. You will go down in the history of our nation as the first female fighter pilot to undertake combat missions in defence of our freedom and sacred values. You will be undertaking combat missions to assert our right to our territory and protect the lives and property of our people”.
Earlier in his address the Air Officer Command/Air Training Command, Air Vice Marshal M.I. Mukhtar, while giving the Course highlights said the tactical phase of the Tactical Fighter Course, comprises a total of 40 sorties conducted concurrently with the tactical academics covering subjects such as Air to Ground Weapons Delivery Theory, Tactical Deliveries and Mission Planning.
He listed the tactical phase of the training to include Tactical Low Level Navigation, Tactical Formation Training, Tactical Standard Gunnery (Dry and Hot), and Tactical Air to Ground.