The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has refurbished two transport aircraft and deployed them to logistical support roles that include ferrying troops and supplies in the fight against Boko Haram militants. It has also returned to service two Chinese-made UAVs for training purposes.
In a statement NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Olatokunbo Adesanya, said air force technicians had successfully restored one ATR 42 and one Dornier 228 aircraft. The Do 228 was reactivated by DANA Limited in collaboration with the NAF.
The NAF announced on 12 July that it had returned to service two Chinese-made Mugin commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), used to train UAV operators. They are operated by the 401st Flying Training School at Kaduna. They had ceased flying earlier this year because of a lack of spare parts, but were made operational again by the Air Force Research and Development Centre (AFRDC).
Chief of Logistics Air Vice Marshal Sambo Usman said the decision to develop local training capacity came about due to difficulty in getting training slots for its UAV operators overseas.
Since the commencement of local UAV flying training, nine officers have been trained and subsequently deployed for operational duties. The officers have since then been conducting both combat and non-combat Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
Nigeria has Aerostar UAVs and some indigenous designs in service such as the Gulma. It is apparently taking delivery of Yabhon Flash-20 UAVs from Adcom Systems in the United Arab Emirates. Nigerian media report that the Yabhon Flash-20 UAVs will replace its five CH-3 armed UAVs acquired from China. One crashed in January 2015 and the type has apparently been problematic in Nigerian service. They have been armed with AR-1 missiles, and used to strike Boko Haram positions.
The aircraft reactivation programme has intensified in the past four years following NAF successes in carrying out major maintenance on its aircraft locally in conjunction with local companies and foreign experts working in Nigeria.
Presently, technicians from the NAF 115 Special Operations Group (SOG) and hired foreign experts are working on the repair and overhaul of a Dauphin and a Mi-35P military helicopter in Port Harcourt.
A local company, Aero Contractors, is providing NAF with free aircraft maintenance and helicopter pilot training expertise.
As part of the ongoing capacity building programme, the NAF has also commissioned a Liquid Oxygen (LOX) plant to ensure a steady supply of oxygen for use in aircraft and local medical centres.
The plant has a capacity to produce 1 000 litres of liquid and gaseous oxygen every 8 hours. It is located at Yola Air Base, and also produces nitrogen gas, a key requirement in various aircraft maintenance operations.
Meanwhile, a NAF A109 light utility helicopter suffered unspecified damaged when it developed a technical fault and crashed into a lagoon in the Maiduguri area last Thursday. The helicopter was engaged in routine counter-insurgency operations at the time of the crash. Both pilots escaped without injury. A board of inquiry has since been constituted to determine the cause of the accident.