Nigerian Air Force (NAF) pilots and crew for the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet have started their training in Pakistan as Nigeria prepares to take delivery of three JF-17s in November.
This is according to the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who was speaking on 4 July to personnel of the Air Task Force (ATF) at the end of a three-day operational visit to Maiduguri to assess the conduct of counter-insurgency operations.
He said the Nigerian Air Force has acquired 22 new aircraft and will be receiving another 16, including 12 Super Tucano attack aircraft, three JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter jets and an additional Mi-171E helicopter.
While JF-17 crews have already started training in Pakistan, Super Tucano crews will soon begin their training. Super Tucano deliveries are scheduled to take place from 2022.
Abubakar added that the NAF’s operational capability has been enhanced by the reactivation of about 25 grounded aircraft within the past five years. One of these was the ATR-42 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft (NAF 930), which had just returned to Nigeria after completing Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) in Germany. He added that the aircraft would soon be redeployed to the North East to further enhance the ATF’s intelligence gathering capabilities.
Abubakar commended the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole for the successes recorded in its renewed offensive against Boko Haram terrorists/Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) elements in the North East of the country under subsidiary Operations Long Reach I and II, stating that he was pleased with the progress made so far.
Before departing Maiduguri, Abubakar interacted with the crews of all the NAF platforms deployed to the Operation Lafiye Dole theatre, including the Super Puma and Mi-35M helicopter fleets; Alpha Jets and L-39ZA jets; CH-3A unmanned aerial vehicles as well as the Beechcraft King Air and ATR-42 ISR crew members.
The Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole conducted subsidiary Operation Long Reach I from 16-27 June 2020 and commenced the currently ongoing Operation Long Reach II on 2 July 2020.