Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakr, says that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), has acquired six brand new helicopters to add to its fleet for the first time in 18 years.
Abubakar said that 73 pilots currently undergoing flight training in different parts of the world are expected to graduate before the end of the year.
He noted the NAFs contribution in boosting counterinsurgency operations in the northeast and other internal security measures across the country.
The Air Marshal made this known in an interview with newsmen shortly after winging 12 new pilots, along with two of their Liberian counterparts, who have just concluded training in Kaduna, Kaduna State and Ilorin, Kwara State.
He explained that following the purchase of the helicopters, the NAF has embarked on training more of its personnel as pilots in various countries, including the United States of America, Morocco and Jordan, adding that before the end of the year, pilot trainees among, which is the first Nigerian Air Force female pilot, would graduate from the schools.
According to him, “In acquiring the number of platforms in the Air Force, we have to train the pilots.
“This is the first time in about 18 years that we are acquiring 6 brand new helicopters for the Air Force.
“This is quite significant in the sense that we are building capacity and making sure that we have the right number of qualified staff that will man these helicopters that have been acquired.
“Human capacity is the most important .You can have all the aircraft but if you don’t have people who are trained to fly the aircraft, you will still not get anything,” he explained.
“Now that the government is acquiring more platforms for us, and we already have pilots. This is the second time that we are winging pilots this year and this shows that we are thinking ahead of what the government is providing for us, and I think it is really impacting positively.”
He noted that the “21st Century is characterised by plethora of armed conflicts occasioned by struggle for political power among ethnic nationalities and sub-nationalities.
“Resource-based conflicts, terrorism and militancy have also continued to define the post-Cold War international environment,” he observed.
He added that “The Nigerian Air Force in the last three years or thereabout has continued to project air power both within and outside Nigeria.”
“To achieve this, we have embarked on human capacity development to reposition the Nigerian Air Force to adequately deal with these challenges,” he said, adding the winging ceremony was a “clear testimony of our commitment as a service that is responsive to the needs of our country and our people.”
He also said “The service has continued to discharge its mandate as provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic, professionally and diligently.
“We are presently engaged with other security agencies in the North East to deal with the Boko Haram terrorist threat to our national security. Our forces are equally in the North West, South South and North Central regions of the country.
‘”The accomplishments of our pilots and other personnel, who are undertaking daring missions in the face of real danger, are testimonies to the quality of training they have received.
“Despite the successes we have recorded so far in all these multiple engagements, we are fully aware of the need to train and retrain personnel, including pilots required to deal with these challenges.”
The NAF Chief said the service under his leadership would not rest on its “oars but constantly build the required capacity to optimally project air power in these theatres in the fulfilment of our national security imperatives.”
“In realization of our drive for human capacity development through robust and result-oriented training for enhanced professional performance, I am pleased that 12 more Nigerian Air Force pilots, along with 2 of their Liberian counterparts, are being winged today, having concluded their training in Kaduna and Ilorin,” he further added.
“There are four Nigerian Air Force student pilots undergoing training with the United States Air Force Academy, and one of them is the first female potential fighter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force.
In addition, we have one student pilot with the Royal Moroccan Air Force, and four student Instructor Pilots training at the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
“Coming back home, there are 64 student pilots at various stages of flight training in Nigerian Air Force Flying Training Schools.
“They are all expected to graduate by the end of this year,” he said.