The enhancement of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) airlift capability and operational effectiveness to confront various security challenges in the country is part of the cardinal focus of the present NAF Leadership. Pursuant to this imperative, the NAF has, for the first time in its history, successfully completed the in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) of a C-130H aircraft, NAF 917. This is taking place few days after receiving three L-39ZA aircraft that were reactivated in-country to enhance the number of serviceable fighter jets in its inventory. The acceptance ceremony for NAF 917, which took place at the 631 Aircraft Maintenance Depot (631 ACMD), Ikeja, Lagos today, 24 June 2019, also witnessed the flag-off of the PDM of another C-130H aircraft, NAF 913. The local reactivation of NAF 917, which was carried out by Messrs SABENA TECHNICS of France in conjunction with NAF engineers and technicians, involved extensive disassembly of the aircraft parts as well as inspection, repair and overhaul of components, amongst others. The involvement of NAF personnel in the reactivation was to further expose them to every stage of the in-depth maintenance process, with a view to building the NAF’s inherent maintenance capabilities.
Speaking during the acceptance ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, stated that the reactivation would impact on NAF efforts towards providing routine support and combat sustainment for NAF as well as Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) operations. He noted that the in-country maintenance had not only resulted in substantial foreign exchange savings for Nigeria but also marked the beginning of a new dawn in NAF’s strategic plan to develop a robust capacity for in-country maintenance and sustenance of platforms and equipment. The successful execution of the PDM, the CAS said, had further reinforced the NAF’s belief that, with the right attitude, dedication and encouragement, the Service would make huge progress and achieve success in human capacity development drive in support of national security imperatives.
According to him, “the significance of today’s acceptance ceremony can best be appreciated by acknowledging the critical role of airlift in ensuring that logistics requirements of our troops involved in various internal security operations are met within the shortest possible time. The C-130H fleet, in particular, has been one of the key fulcrums in providing sustainment to our troops involved in ongoing internal security operations through airlift and movement of troops, equipment, armament and other materiel. The C-130H has also been critical to NAF response to emergencies or in fulfilling Nigeria’s responsibilities to international peace keeping operations and ensuring stability, not just in the West African sub-region but also across the continent.” The CAS cited examples of operations in which the C-130H played critical roles to include ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone, airlift of troops to Congo, Mali, Sudan as well as the recent success of the ECOWAS Military Intervention Group (ECOMIG) operation in the Gambia through airlift of troops and materiel to and from the theatre of operation and a host of other peace keeping operations.
While appreciating the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to NAF’s efforts to maintain its platforms and equipment as well as the support to acquire new ones, the CAS emphasized that the in-country maintenance was to ensure the transfer of technical know-how and experience from the technical partners to NAF engineers and technicians. “This is in line with our plan to build in-house capacity to ensure that we domicile the skills and expertise required to carry out maintenance activities in order to better support and sustain NAF air operations especially in the face of competing needs for national resources. This is also the main thrust of all our other aircraft maintenance, reactivation and Life Extension Programmes as well as PDM efforts being carried out in collaboration with other technical partners on the Alpha Jet, L-39ZA, Mi-35P, EC-135 helicopter and C-130H (NAF 913), currently docked for PDM in this hangar. These efforts are also in tandem with our Research and Development (R&D) drive which has started yielding results in many areas such as local fabrication of tools and spares, some of which were utilised in the conduct of the recently conducted PDM”, he noted.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Air Officer Commanding Logistics Command (AOC LC), Air Vice Marshal Adeyinka Olabisi, expressed delight to finally witness a successfully executed in-country PDM after previous attempts had failed. He remarked that the acceptance of NAF 917 was a watershed in NAF’s long-term aspiration to domesticate in-depth maintenance of the C-130H Fleet, which was the strategic objective for the establishment of the ACMD. He explained that during the PDM, which is a calendar inspection conducted at 6-year intervals or after 5,000 flying hours, 631 ACMD also witnessed the reactivation of unserviceable hangar infrastructure and training of personnel in the use of some special equipment, which had been lying idle in its warehouse since the C-130H Fleet was delivered in the 1970s. Speaking further, the AOC said the 301 Heavy Airlift Group, Ikeja made painstaking effort to conduct comprehensive ground and in-flight acceptance checks to certify NAF 917 safe for flight operations in accordance with Lockheed Acceptance Checks Manual and international best practices.
The CAS was later conducted on a tour and briefed on details of project management process for the PDM of NAF 913 by the Pakistan Air Force Technical Assistance Group. While in Lagos, the CAS also commissioned some welfare projects which included a newly constructed Crew Room at the 47 Engineering Wing of 631 ACMD as well as a newly constructed Canteen for personnel at the 651 Base Services Group, Ikeja, where he commended the Commanders for taking the initiative and adding value to improve the welfare of their personnel. He also inspected some vehicles and maintenance equipment which were reactivated through innovative R&D efforts at 631 ACMD. Dignitaries present at the ceremony included the Commandant Armed Forces Resettlement Centre as well as the representatives of the General Officer Commanding 1 Division and Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, along with many other senior serving and retired senior officers.
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