The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has officially taken into service three L-39ZA aircraft that were made serviceable again by Aero Vodochody with assistance from Nigerian engineers and technicians.
The aircraft were handed over during a ceremony on 21 June at NAF 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS) in Kano. In attendance was the Czech Ambassador to Nigeria Marek Skolil and Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
Abubakar said the handing over of the three aircraft marked another milestone in the Air Force’s efforts to ensure that 403 FTS continues to operate optimally. He said the in-country reactivation of the aircraft was also done in pursuit of the overall objective of doing all maintenance and training locally, thereby resulting in huge foreign exchange savings which could be channelled elsewhere.
Abubakar said he was pleased at the transfer of skills and expertise to NAF engineers and technicians by the Czechs and was optimistic Aero Vodochody would assist with the overhaul of an additional six L-39ZA jets.
For his part, Skolil noted the Czech Republic has supported the NAF since the Nigerian Civil War, when L-29s were used in combat. The L-39ZA has been in Nigerian service for over three decades, and used extensively for training and counter-insurgency operations in the northeast. He said the modernised L-39NG would be available to Nigeria at a discount.
The Commander 403 FTS, Air Commodore Nnamdi Ananaba, said the reactivation of the L-39ZAs came months after the graduation ceremony of Basic Flying Course 18 (BFC-18), when the school did not have enough aircraft to accommodate the increased demand for fighter pilot training that has come with the acquisition of new aircraft, notably the JF-17 Thunder and A-29 Super Tucano. The NAF is also receiving Mi-35M and A109E Power helicopters. (On 20 June the NAF graduated 26 ab ignition student pilots.)
Meanwhile, on 24 June the Nigerian Air Force celebrated the first successful in-country completion of periodic depot maintenance (PDM) on a C-130 Hercules transport (NAF 917). PDM is a calendar inspection conducted at six year intervals or after 5 000 flying hours. The aircraft was accepted during a ceremony at the 631 Aircraft Maintenance Depot (631 ACMD) in Ikeja, Lagos, during which periodic depot maintenance began on anther C-130 (NAF 913). The latter is being maintained with help from the Pakistan Air Force Technical Assistance Group.
The local reactivation of NAF 917 was carried out by Sabena Technic in conjunction with NAF engineers and technicians, and involved extensive disassembly of the aircraft as well as inspection, repair and overhaul of components. 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, the NAF said.
Abubakar said that “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.”
This included ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone, airlift of troops to Congo, Mali and Sudan as well as in support of the recent ECOWAS Military Intervention Group (ECOMIG) operation in the Gambia.
The NAF said it was trying to do as much work locally as possible in the maintenance, reactivation and life extension of its aircraft. It said maintenance efforts were being carried out with partners on the Alpha Jet, L-39ZA, Mi-35P, EC-135 and C-130H.