The Nigerian Airforce says it has acquired two Mi-35M attack helicopters from Russia to fight terrorists and criminal gangs.
The Mi-35M is a rugged helicopter that offers round the clock combat use of guided and unguided weapons in regular and challenging climate conditions which is equipped with the latest navigation suite, target sights system, laser range finder and location finder.
“The aircraft have already been delivered awaiting official induction after which they will be launched for operations,” the Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, said at a media briefing in Abuja on Friday.
He said the Air Force has also installed camera on a Beechcraft aircraft NAF 202 and NAF 204, and upgraded the camera on NAF 201 all in 2016.
“Furthermore, 3x EC-135 helicopters were handed over to the NAF by NNPC in March 2016. In collaboration with Aero-contractors Nigeria Ltd, 2 of the helicopters were reactivated.
“These included NAF 547 and NAF 548. Efforts are also on-going to carry out PDM/reactivation of 2x Mi-35P helicopters NAF 530 and NAF 531,” he said.
The Air force has also recently inducted four new Super Mushshak Trainer Aircraft, which were acquired from Pakistan.
The Chief of Operations of the Force, Isiaka Amao, an Air Vice Marshal, who made the main presentation said the training activities of the Airforce in 2016 placed more emphasis on “pilots, engineers, technician and regiment personnel”.
“The NAF in 2016 trained 869 of its personnel overseas including 101 pilots and 357 engineers and technicians, while 4,868 were trained locally including 131 pilots and 643 engineers and technicians,” he said.
Throwing more light later, the Chief of Training and Operations, Ahmed Iya, also an Air Vice Marshal, said the Airforce spends “between $600,000 to $700,000 to train Pilots overseas while about $60,000 to $70,000 is spent to train Pilots locally”.
At official rate of N305 to the dollar, the force spent some N25. 7 billion on the pilot trainings.
The Air Chief said 14 Pilots recently graduated and joined the pool of fighter pilots within the service adding “presently more Pilots are training in Ilorin, Jordan and with the Egyptian Airforce”.
The Air force Chief also said “a total of 6,000 hrs was flown by NAF platforms translating to Jet A-1 fuel consumption of 10,525,945 liters”. He said despite this extensive employment of air power, “the casualty figures of own troops were minimal due to the professionalism displayed by NAF pilots”.
He however, failed to give the exact figure of the total casualty.
Mr. Abubakar, Air Marshal, said due to the additional responsibilities that the Air Force is facing as it supports other forces in the various operations within the country, a new command was established in Bauchi state.
He said the Fifth Command has already taken off while nine units under the Command were equally established.
He said the Service had to intervene in providing infrastructure at the newly established units.
“Some of these units are HQ SOC Bauchi, Forward Operation Base (FOB), Katsina, Quick Response Wing Daura, 201 Composite Group, Bauchi, and Quick Response Groups, Owerri and Gusau.
“Contracts for construction of Group HQ building, officers and joint airmen Mess, residential accommodation for officers and airmen as well as provision of water and electricity have been awarded for development of FOB Katsina and QR Wing Daura,” he said.
“Additionally, a 60-bedded reference hospital has been constructed and awaiting commissioning. Contracts for the extension of apron and construction of taxiways and access road to operational area have also been awarded,” he said.
On the recent accident of one of the Helicopters given to the service by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Chief of Training and Operations said the Service is unable to give update to the Nigerian public because investigation is ongoing.
The helicopter crashed in Makurdi Benue state with no casualty.
The Air Force Chief said the Cockpit Voice recorder has been returned to the manufacturer to help the service extract the relevant data for analysis.