The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has inducted another EC-135 helicopter, NAF 549, into service after it was reactivated in-country by NAF personnel in collaboration with technical experts from outside Nigeria.
The Nigerian Air Force Facebook page states that the induction of NAF at the NAF 115 Special Operations Group (115 SOG) in Port Harcourt, “signifies the substantial progress the Service [NAF] has made in its bid to continually build capacity to cope with technological advancements in the field of military aviation and further prosecute the various on-going operations in the country.”
During the induction ceremony, Chief of the Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, stated that the EC-135 helicopter would be a force multiplier in the effort of the NAF to secure the lives and property of Nigerians as well as protect the territorial integrity of the country. Due to the reactivation being done in Nigeria, Abubabar also stated that the country was able to save foreign exchange and enabled the transfer of required skills to NAF technicians.
“This is in line with the Service’s projected end state, which is to ensure that in the near future, the NAF would have sufficiently domiciled the technical expertise and technological know-how to conduct the full spectrum of maintenance activities locally using its own engineers, technicians and resources,” added Abubakar.
Abubakar went onto state that the NAF was conducting various initial and advanced training for NAF helicopter pilots locally and abroad, having recently approved the training of ten helicopter pilots by Cobham Helicopter in the United Kingdom. “We have also commenced the tactical training of NAF helicopter pilots at 405 Helicopter Combat Training Group (405 HCTG) Enugu in order to build their capacity to function more effectively in complex air-ground environments. All these efforts are being made to enable the NAF to build its core competencies towards the employment of air power in the discharge of our constitutional responsibilities,” he added.
Abubakar expressed the NAF’s gratitude for the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, giving priority to the NAF’s efforts in maintaining its aircraft and equipment as well as the acquisition of new aircraft such as the A-29 Super Tucano, JF-17 Thunder fighter, Mi-35M, Augusta A-109 Power and AW-139 helicopters.
Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command (AOC TAC), Air Vice Marshal Charles Owho, represented by Chief of Staff, Air Commodore, Shehu Bakari, added that the reactivation would contribute to the actualisation of one of the key drivers of Abubakar’s vision, which is, “Robust logistics support and maintenance culture to sustain platforms and equipment serviceability.”
The reactivation of NAF 549, which has been unserviceable since June 2013 before being handed over to the NAF in 2016, commenced on 10 January 2018. Critical assessment of the helicopter took place and work was completed in June 2019. The helicopter is one of three EC-135s inherited by the NAF from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The other two EC-135s, NAF 547 and NAF 548, have been reactivated in-country and have since been deployed for operations.
The ceremony was highlighted by a functional check flight (FCF) by pilots of the 115 SOG, under the guidance of the Commander, Air Commodore Elijah Ebiowe, to certify the aircraft was ready for flight operations. Technical documents for the aircraft were then handed over to Abubakar by the Chief of Aircraft Engineering, Air Vice Marshal Musa Mukhtar. Also attending the induction ceremony was the Commander Operation DELTA SAFE, Rear Admiral A Akinrinade, as well as other serving and retired military officers and heads of other security agencies in Rivers State.