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Air Force acquires 18 new aircraft, reactivates 13 in three years

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Trains, deploys 2,000 Special forces for internal security operations 

•Commissions small arms shooting range in Bauchi

Godsgift Onyedinefu  

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has within three years of President Muhammadu Buhari administration acquired 18 new air craft and reactivated 13 others.

NAF has also trained over 2,000 Special Forces personnel to bridge the gap between force projection and force protection, with 1,000 of these personnel deployed for counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and various internal security operations in the country.

This was disclosed on Saturday by  Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, at the commissioning ceremony of an outdoor small arms shooting range and other projects recently executed by the NAF at its Base in Bauchi.

Abubakar in a statement yesterday by the Director of Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, noted that “the NAF had trained over 2,000 Special Forces personnel to bridge the gap between force projection and force protection, with 1,000 of these personnel deployed, along with air assets, alongside other security agencies in the North East, North Central, South-South, South East and the North West”.

He stressed  that the asymmetric challenges facing the nation had necessitated the establishment of the  Special Operations Command (SOC), and units under its command, in order to sharpen the NAF’s response capability in Internal Security and counterinsurgency operations.

Against this backdrop, the CAS hinted that he was rejigging air operations in Zamfara State with additional air assets being deployed in support of Operation Sharan Daji with a view to further dealing decisive blows on armed bandits.

He commended Buhari “for providing the enabling environment that had facilitated the purchase 18 brand new aircraft as well as the reactivation of 13 previously unserviceable ones in just three years, thereby enhancing NAF’s ability to meet national security imperatives”.

He also expressed immense gratitude to the people of Bauchi State for their hospitality and support to the NAF.

Earlier, the Air Officer Commanding SOC, Air Vice Marshal Ismaila Kaita, said the NAF had undergone unprecedented transformation in terms of expansion and capacity building under the current leadership.

Kaita noted that the shooting range and the residential buildings being commissioned were only a fraction of the positive developments taking place in the Service, which had spurred NAF personnel towards the effective performance of their duties.

Meanwhile, the Governor of the State, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, has donated land within the Lame and Bura Forests to the Service for the establishment of an Air Range as part of the State Government’s contribution to human capacity building in the NAF.

Abubakar said the NAF had done remarkably well in dealing with most of the security challenges confronting the nation. He said the NAF had always demonstrated professionalism and discipline in the conduct of its operations while making invaluable sacrifices to ensure peace and security in the country.

The Governor alo thanked President Buhari for approving the establishment of SOC and the NAF Base in Bauchi. He equally appreciated the Chief of the Air Staff  for his untiring efforts at emplacing necessary facilities in the Base, including the NAF Reference Hospital, which according to him was already proving quite beneficial to Bauchi State residents.

 He also commended NAF’s various medical and humanitarian outreach programmes, which he said “had impacted positively on the well-being of members of the host communities”, and pledged the State Government’s commitment to continue to support the Service.

The other projects commissioned during the event included two blocks of Commanders’ Quarters, one block of 6 x 2 bedroom Married Senior Non-Commissioned Officers’ Accommodation, one block of 10 single room Non-Commissioned Officers’ Accommodation as well as the Quarter Guard, entrance way and Gate of Headquarters SOC. A historical Photo Gallery building constructed by the Commander 251 Base Services Group was also commissioned.

Highlight of the occasion was a special range classification exercise at the shooting range, where Governor Abubakar and other dignitaries tested their marksmanship ability using the Tavor assault rifle and the FN Browning pistol at 50m and 25m ranges respectively.

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