Interagency collaboration has proven to be increasingly critical to defeating criminal elements, including Boko Haram, as experienced in the Marte attack where 13 terrorist gun trucks were annihilated with several terrorists killed, DAVID TARKAA writes.
The fluid nature of modern threats and the dynamics of the 21-century demands constant review of emerging threats and approaches for optimal results. This is just as capacity has remained a critical factor in any organisation despite the advent of machines that have replaced humans in the workplace such as exist in the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
The NAF in recognition of the need to have knowledgeable and professional officers in the field has undertaken series of joint exercises to develop the capacity of officers in operational planning and management for the effective and efficient employment of air power.
This is to be able to respond decisively and adapt appropriately to a rapidly changing battlespace. Coupled with effective inter-agency collaboration, this would ensure success in virtually every encounter with the adversary. Hence, the need for greater effectiveness in joint operations.
As part of efforts to promote synergy and collaboration among security agencies, the Nigerian Air Force trained sister Services’ personnel on air-ground integration. Several batches have been trained and deployed into the field thereby promoting collaboration among the personnel for a common good.
In 2019, the Nigerian Air Force graduated 46 Helicopter Backdoor Gunners from course 5/2019 comprising 10 personnel of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, had emphasized earlier that the objective was to ensure that personnel train in a realistic North-East environment, which is currently the hotbed of security challenges.
Speaking further, the CAS noted that the NAF had demonstrated the importance of synergy in training, with the involvement of 10 personnel of the NPF on the course.
“It is believed that other sister security agencies would key into this arrangement in the future,” he added.
While pledging the unwavering dedication of the Service towards ensuring the security of Nigeria and Nigerians, Air Marshal Abubakar thanked the President, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his untiring support for the NAF.
“The commitment displayed by the current administration towards increasing the air power capabilities of the NAF through the acquisition of platforms is being paid back by personnel with enhanced professionalism on our part, ” he added.
To consolidate on this strategy, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in April 2020 graduated another batch of Helicopter Backdoor Gunners (HBDG) comprising 12 Nigerian Army (NA) and 19 NAF personnel to enhance synergy between the Services and other security agencies in the fight against insurgency.
The graduation of HBDG Course 6/2020, was aimed at facilitating effective air-ground integration that would improve the freedom of action of surface forces at all echelons during combat operations.
The CAS, who was represented by the NAF Chief of Training and Operations, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) James Gwani, stated that the training was necessitated by the fluid nature of the contemporary security challenges facing the Nation.
He noted that the use of rotary-wing platforms had become imperative for Close Air Support, as experience over time has shown that rotary-wing platforms are the best suited to the battlespace against insurgents, terrorists, and other non-conventional forces.
He added, in line with his vision of transforming the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives, the NAF had taken deliberate steps to build the capacity of its Regiment personnel to the skill level required to protect bases and assets as well as support NAF engagements across the country.
“The NAF subsequently embarked on training of over 4,000 personnel, both overseas and locally, in order to build adequate capacity in response to national security imperatives. This initiative has ensured that our Bases are well secured thereby providing the necessary platforms to guarantee mission success”, the CAS said.
He noted that the incorporation of the 12 Nigerian Army (NA) personnel on the HBDG 6/2020 was done in the spirit of inter-Service cooperation as well as to ensure synergy for enhanced effectiveness and efficiency in the conduct of joint operations.
While congratulating the graduands for their success on the Course, the CAS urged them to imbibe the attributes and core values of the NAF of excellence, honour, honesty, courage, humility, perseverance, and adaptability during operations and in their various fields of specialisation to ensure success.
He stated that the Course was deliberately designed to be both physically and mentally demanding to prepare them for the tough challenges ahead.
He said, “Your commitment and determination during your training has distinguished you and made you all earn a place among the elite teams in your respective Services.”
The CAS who expressed gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to the training, operational and other requirements of the Service, noted that the support provided by the Federal Government had positively impacted the NAF’s operational efficiency and had enabled the provision of improved welfare services to personnel.
He also commended the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Ground Training Command (GTC) as well as the Commandant and staff of the RTC for their dedication in ensuring the training of combat-ready personnel for the Service.
In his welcome remarks, the AOC GTC, AVM Idi Amin, noted that the increasingly complex nature of the contemporary threat environment required properly equipped, highly-trained, and well-motivated forces.
Accordingly, he said, the GTC, through its various training centres, had sustained the training and retraining of NAF personnel in non-technical ground duties, including Regiment and Special Forces (SF).
He restated that the RTC would continue to conduct training to produce highly professional and disciplined personnel that would be effective, efficient, and timely in their response to national security challenges.
Speaking further, the AOC highlighted that the 5 weeks intensive HBDG course, which he said exemplifies 2 of the key drivers of the CAS’ vision of ‘human capacity development through robust and result in oriented training for enhanced professional performance’ and ‘focus on comradeship, regimentation, and inter-Service cooperation’, covered drills in an array of both combat and non-combat actions in offensive and defensive operations.
He further explained that the training covered instructions and subjects on the practical applications of the science of ballistics, gunner strategy and duties, helicopter and rope safety procedures, heavy weapon fire and range classification exercise, survival techniques, practical rappelling from tower and helicopter as well as static and moving vehicle firing, amongst others.
The occasion featured a tactical demonstration by the graduating students, which included an air-ground assault simulation exercise involving the engagement of an enemy location by a HBDG from an EC-135 Helicopter as well as the rappelling of SF personnel from a Bell 412 Helicopter into a hostile environment to flush out bandits from their camp.
The Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (retired), commended the leadership of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), led by the CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for its capacity building initiatives and infrastructural development efforts towards improving the living standards of personnel for enhanced professional performance.
The Minister, while speaking at the combined graduation ceremony of 162 personnel from Special Forces (SF) Course 5/2019 and 46 from the Helicopter Backdoor Gunners (HBDG) Course 5/2019 at the Regiment Training Centre (RTC) Annex in Bauchi State, applauded the NAF for training 10 officers of the Nigeria Police alongside the NAF personnel as HBDGs. “This singular act, not only promotes inter-Service cooperation but will go a long way in substantiating the fact that no Service can single-handedly prosecute a war or conduct an operation without the support of the other”.
“I believe that the achievements recorded by the NAF are results of your intensive efforts towards repositioning the Service to adequately respond to Nigeria’s security imperatives. I must say that we are proud of you and we urge you not to relent in your efforts,” he said.
Speaking further, Major General Magashi, added that the efforts of the NAF in building the capacity of personnel were yielding desired results. He said this could not have come at a better time as the country was experiencing security challenges that were increasingly requiring the intervention of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN).
“Countering these threats, which are synonymous to asymmetric warfare methods, requires a different approach including the use of Special Operations Forces,” he added.
He further lauded the proactive steps taken by the NAF in protecting its helicopters from flank attacks during internal security operations with the training of the HBDGs.
He urged the graduands to use their newly acquired skills to attain the operational objectives of their respective Services in future deployments. He also enjoined them to continue improving their proficiency in their respective areas of expertise as they play their part towards ensuring a safer and more secure Nigeria.
These years of continued training and commitment manifested in the Marte attack where the combined efforts of both the land and air component inflicted heavy casualties on the terrorists
The Air Task Force Operation LAFIYA DOLE, in conjunction with troops of Operation TURA TAKAIBANGO, on January 15 2021 destroyed 7 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists’ gun trucks and killed several fighters who attempted to breach the Marte troops’ location.
The Defence Headquarters said the terrorists met their waterloo when they attempted to attack troops located at the outskirts of Marte in Marte Local Government Area of Borno State. The report indicated that the encounter occurred on the night of 15 January through to the early hours of 16 January 2021 as the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) helicopter gunships engaged the convoy of ISWAP gun trucks as they approached the Marte axis for reinforcement.
The official said “the helicopters delivered accurate hits in their multiple waves of attack, obliterating no fewer than 6 additional gun trucks, which were seen engulfed in flames across the battlespace.
He added that “several other terrorists were mopped-up in follow-on attacks as the helicopter gunships continued to strafe the fleeing ISWAP elements.” In all about 13 Boko Haram Terrorists/Isamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) gun trucks were destroyed and several fighters killed as the troops repelled the attack and hoisted a Nigerian flag in the area.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, elated by the synergy, commended the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole for the support role in the destruction of several gun trucks and neutralisation of an unconfirmed number of terrorists at the Marte axis. He said the Air Task Force Operation LAFIYA DOLE played a decisive/commendable role in the destruction of the terrorists’ gun trucks and the decimation of an unconfirmed number of the insurgents. He appreciated and commended the troops, especially the Air Task Force of Operation LAFIYA DOLE for their heroic and patriotic actions which resulted in the successes recorded.
Similarly, the CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, had earlier commended the Air Task Force Commander, the pilots that took part in the operation as well as all air and ground crews of the Air Task Force of Operation LAFIYA DOLE for their courage, professionalism and dedication whilst urging them to continue to work synergistically with sister Services amd security agencies to rid the North East of all terrorist elements.
This feat is an indication that the years of commitment and dedication by the NAF to promote synergy and integrate air to ground operations has begun to yield results. This shows that truly an end is in sight for the terrorists who have made life unbearable for the locals and rendered several families without breadwinners.
The NAF, under the leadership of the CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, by this act has proven that it is “willing, able and ready”, to work with other security agencies to end the mindless killing of innocent citizens as well as kidnapping, banditry and militancy across the nation.