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Upscaling NAF’s Air Combat Capacity For Strategic Operations



TARKAA DAVID in this report looks at NAF’s capacity-building efforts in the 21st century, which has resulted in several breakthroughs and many successes in the fight against insecurity.

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) operates in a complex environment caused by natural phenomena, hence the need for continuous capacity building and expertise to avert collateral damage both in human and material resources.

The truth is the air space is a complex area with no room for mistakes. A high level of professionalism is expected during combat and the need to be a master of the craft cannot be overemphasised.

This is in addition to the fact that 21st-century warfare is driven by technological innovations that could yield great results if exploited through the employment of the right acquired skills. As the world moves to stealth equipment, it has become more important to be efficient and innovative for greater output.

This entails acquisition of modern platforms and reactivation of moribund ones for swift and effective airpower delivery for national security. All assets will amount to nothing if the right people are not deployed to man and operate them.

Accordingly, the NAF, since the ascension of Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar as the 20th Chief of the Air Staff, embarked on massive recruitment resulting in the training of a total of about 9,772 young Nigerians as airmen/airwomen and 1,030 as officers, in the last 5 years. This has significantly boosted the capacity of the Service to effectively curtail insecurity in the country, while also implicitly keying into the federal government policy of job creation for young Nigerians.

In line with one of the key drivers of Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar’s vision, which hinges on human capacity development and result-oriented training, the NAF has trained thousands of its officers and airmen/airwomen in different categories of air and ground functions and still counting.

The NAF under his leadership has winged over 114 pilots in the last five years alone. In the same vein, 103 other student pilots are currently undergoing training both within and outside the country. In furtherance of his drive to build capacity to man those delicate aircraft and equipment, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has graduated another set of six Instructor Pilots (IPs) at the 401 Flying Training School (401 FTS) Kaduna.

The director of Public Relations and Information Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola in a statement said the IP Course 12/2020 Course had six participants, comprising one Wing Commander, two Flight Lieutenants and three Flying Officers drawn from different platforms and units in the NAF, who completed the intensive four months training.

Speaking during the ceremony on 17 July, 2020 the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who was represented by the Commandant Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Abdulganiu Olabisi, noted that the 401 FTS had continued to fulfill its statutory role of providing effective flying training for almost 40 years as evidenced by the quality of its graduands over the years.

He, therefore, implored the school not to rest on its oars but to continue to strive towards more realistic training consistent with the operational imperatives in today’s aviation industry, producing the next generation of NAF aviators.

While congratulating the graduands for marking another significant milestone in their careers, the CAS restated that, as critical elements in the operational cycle, they must endeavour to contribute their quota to the upliftment of the standard of student pilots’ training thereby enhancing the effectiveness of operations in the Service.

He also urged them to work harder, read wider and fly with more precision in order to satisfy the quest for knowledge of their students and set the right example. “I can assure you that if you are prepared to do these, then you will find fulfillment in the job that you do and enjoy the rest of your flying career”, he added.

The CAS, therefore, enjoined them to seize the opportunities available to make a positive impact in the NAF and leave a legacy for their students who would remember them for the rest of their Service lives.

The CAS also commended the Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command, (AOC ATC) the Commander 401 FTS, IPs and other staff for their hard work and unflinching drive towards churning out yet another batch of new IPs for the NAF.

He assured that the Service, on its part, would continue to support their activities within available resources to provide result-oriented training.

Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Commander 401 FTS, Group Captain Nasiru Saidu, while thanking the CAS for his unrelenting support to the Unit, stated that the 6 Student Instructor Pilots (SIPs), who were drawn from various operational Units in the NAF, completed the IP course with high levels of airmanship and were therefore ready for deployment to both DA-40NG and Super Mushshak aircraft as instructors.

Similarly, the CAS, Air Marshal Abubakar, speaking during the graduation of 82 personnel of Intermediate and Advanced Communication and Information Systems (CIS) Courses at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Kaduna charged them to bring the skills acquired during their training to bear in enhancing the conduct of the NAF’s operations.

The Director of Public Relations and Information Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola said the Intermediate Courses, which began 6 months ago, comprised the Airmen Electrical Electronics/Communication Course, Airmen Information Technology Course and Airmen Electrical Electronics/Radar Course, while the Advanced Courses, of 3 months duration, comprised Advanced Airmen Electrical Electronics/Communication Course, Advanced Airmen Information Technology Course and Advanced Airmen Electrical Electronics/Radar Course.

Speaking further, the CAS noted that effective military communication was a key requirement for any successful military enterprise, including the projection of Air Power.

He observed that having such effective communication required personnel with the appropriate skill sets, adding that the current NAF leadership had, from inception, accordingly placed emphasis on the development of human capacity in all areas that would ensure the effective and efficient employment of airpower, when required.

In this regard, the CAS said, the NAF had consistently trained personnel both locally and abroad, noting that the successful execution of air operations in theatres across the country was a testament to the efficacy of the NAF’s current capacity building initiatives.

“In recent times, the NAF’s effort in enhancing the capacity of CIS personnel has led to the training of 4 Information Technology officers on Advanced Software Development at the Academy Computer Training Centre, Miami Florida, United States of America (USA) and 5 others on Advanced Cyber Security at the Institute of Information Security, Maharashtra Pune, India”, Air Marshal Abubakar said.

He further disclosed that the NAF had trained 4 Communications personnel on Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) Camera Intermediate Maintenance Course in the USA, while Chinese Electronics Import and Export Corporation had trained three officers and one senior non commissioned officer in China on Radar systems.

The CAS also revealed that five CIS officers were undergoing various courses in China, in addition to a total of 20 others who were trained in-country by the FLIR Company US on Airborne Tactical Observation Systems and were currently deployed to various theatres of operation across the Country.

He remarked that the knowledge acquired in the various courses of training would boost the capacity of NAF CIS personnel so that such courses could eventually be conducted at AFIT, thereby saving scarce national resources. The CAS further observed that the technical courses being conducted at AFIT were already proving crucial towards reducing the dependence on foreign expatriates, while also building the confidence of NAF personnel. He promised that training facilities at the institute would be upgraded to further improve the practical experience of future students.

While congratulating the graduands for their determination and tenacity to work through to the end of the course, Air Marshal Abubakar reminded them that they would be deployed to support ongoing NAF operations either directly or indirectly. He, therefore, charged them to remain highly professional, focused and disciplined.

“You must bring to bear the skills you have acquired during your training here at this prestigious Institute in the discharge of your duties. It is, therefore, my sincere expectation that as you go to the field, you will be good and worthy ambassadors of AFIT,” the CAS said. He also reminded all personnel to support the Government’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19 by ensuring total adherence to stipulated guidelines; including the wearing of face masks, observance of social/physical distancing when in public places as well as the avoidance of unnecessary inter-state movements.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Commandant AFIT, Air Vice Marshal Abdulganiyu Olabisi, stated that the objective of the courses was to improve on the skills acquired by the airmen and airwomen from their basic courses. According to him, following the basic training, they had been posted to various units for hands-on experience.

The intermediate and advanced courses, he said, provide the airmen/airwomen with the skill and knowledge that would enable them to carry out more specialized functions as they handle higher responsibilities. He noted that the resources were optimized to ensure satisfactory coverage of the theoretical and practical aspects of the courses.

In spite of the challenges faced in the course of the training, the Commandant remarked that AFIT is totally committed to the task of human capacity development through robust and result oriented training for enhanced professional performance. He thanked the NAF leadership, as well as Headquarters Air Training Command and the 441 Communications Group, for the immense support and timely response to their requests.

The capacity building initiatives of Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar are no doubt enabling the NAF to live up to its statutory responsibilities of defending Nigeria’s territory by air. As technology becomes the order of the day in modern warfare, it is also evident that the NAF’s huge investments in capacity building are yielding tangible dividends in the ability of the Service to effectively and efficiently employ Air Power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.