The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) continues to carry out life extension and periodic depot maintenance on its aircraft fleet as it improves serviceability across the board.
Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, during a visit to Kainji Air Base on 3 November, “applauded the appreciable level of work on the in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) on two Alpha Jet aircraft, NAF 465 and NAF 471, as well as engine recovery efforts being undertaken by the 407 Air Combat Training Group (407 ACTG) Kainji,” the NAF said in a statement.
He noted that the significant feature about the Alpha Jet PDM was the fact that it was being done in Nigeria, thereby building the capacity of NAF personnel. Abubakar highlighted that the NAF had similarly conducted successful PDM on two C-130H aircraft (NAF 913 and 917) in Lagos and was on the verge of commencing the in-country PDM on a third C-130H aircraft.
Abubakar noted that the NAF had, in the same vein, carried out Life Extension Programmes (LEPs) on three L-39ZAs in Kano and would soon commence in-country LEP on another batch of three L-39ZAs. He also disclosed that similar major maintenance activities had commenced on the F-7 fighter jets in Makurdi.
“We have some of our Chinese friends in Makurdi who are supporting us as we work to reactivate the F-7s and very soon those fighter aircraft will be brought back to serviceable status. The whole idea is to mobilize every asset in the NAF in order to utilize them to ensure that Nigeria is secure and its people are safe,” he said.
“In the area of training of pilots and engineers, we have close to 200 personnel in different countries around the world, who, by the time they return to Nigeria after their various courses will have sufficient capacity to operate and maintain the new aircraft being acquired by the NAF”, he said.
Efforts to improve serviceability have seen the NAF’s serviceability status go from 33-35% in 2015 to 83-84% today, Abubakar said.
At the beginning of November Abubakar briefed the House of Representatives on progress within the NAF. Regarding capacity building, he disclosed that the NAF had reactivated 20 erstwhile unserviceable aircraft.
“We have 16 Chinese personnel that are in Makurdi, working to reactivate two F-7Ni aircraft there. We are also expecting 18 personnel from Czech Republic today to work with our personnel in the reactivation of L-39ZA. We believe that the whole idea is for us to build capacity to enable us carry out these maintenance activities entirely on our own in no distant time.”
Abubakar expressed gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, the entire National Assembly members and the House Committee on Air Force, and for their continued support to the NAF which had enabled the induction of 22 brand new aircraft into the service in the last five years. According to him, “the last time the NAF had this huge number of aircraft inducted into the service was in the 1980s. We are also expecting 17 more aircraft, including 12 Super Tucanos. Six of these aircraft have so far been produced and some of our pilots and technicians are currently undergoing training in the USA so as to effectively man the aircraft, which are expected to arrive in Nigeria by the second quarter of 2021”.
Upgrade work is proceeding at Kainji where the Super Tucanos will be based. Abubakar said that most of the infrastructure required to accommodate the new type would be ready by early December 2020 well ahead of the expected delivery by the second quarter of 2021.
Abubakar said that the NAF is increasing serviceability in response to the conflicts in the north as air power is needed to monitor 705 000 square kilometres of area. “How do you keep an eye on every inch of that land to ensure that insecurity will not thrive, and some of these areas are not accessible to our ground troops? The only way of covering that huge space, including forests, is to have adequate number of serviceable aircraft to give the desired result. That is why we are concentrating on capacity building.”