The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Wednesday in Abuja, winged four pilots and 12 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) operators who successfully completed their Basic Helicopter Pilot Training at the Draken Europe Helicopter Academy, U.K.
The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, expressed delight for the additional expertise in the NAF ever-expanding inventory of manned and unmanned aircraft systems.
Amao noted that the training was part of his vison of enhancing and sustaining critical airpower capabilities required for deployment in pursuit of national security imperatives.
”I am glad to note that, through foresight and diligence, we are effectively engaging one of the key drivers of my vision which is to pursue purposeful training and human capacity development.
“The foregoing is based on the premise that, for NAF to function efficiently, both as a highly technical service and as a fighting force for the effective defence of Nigeria’s territorial integrity, it must have the right numerical strength.
“And, more importantly, the right quality of manpower in all relevant competencies.
“Accordingly, we have continued to train personnel of all specialties both locally and abroad.
“As we speak, officers, airmen and airwomen of the service are undergoing training in various countries including the U.S., South Africa, India, Belgium, Egypt and Pakistan, among others.
“In addition, hundreds of personnel across all specialties are being trained locally in spite of budgetary constraints.
“In the area of pilot training, 11 student pilots are currently undergoing training in South Africa, while three are undergoing Alpha Jet conversion in Egypt.
“In the same vein, 12 student pilots are undergoing Super Tucano training and four student pilots are undergoing helicopter training in the U.S.
“Indeed, two of these student helicopter pilots have completed their training and are expected to graduate very soon.”
The CAS added that, within the country, 12 student pilots are undergoing Basic Fighter Training while two have recently completed jet conversion at 403 Flying Training School, Kano.
He added that 12 student pilots were undergoing Basic Transport Training, 32 undergoing Ab-Initio Flying Training and eight undergoing Instructor Training at 401 Flying Training School, Kaduna.
“Furthermore, 22 trainees are undergoing UAV Initial and Basic Training at 401 FTS, while 16 student pilots are undergoing Helicopter Pilot Training at the International Helicopter Flying School Enugu.“
Amao explained that all these efforts were targeted at ensuring combat readiness at significantly higher levels to counter both domestic and foreign threats to the nation’s security.
“In furtherance of this, we also recently reviewed the curricula for the various schools in the NAF Institute of Technology to meet expected standards, while also conducting instructional training for the instructors to ensure enhanced performance.
“Similarly, the training curriculum for NAF cadets in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) has been reviewed and new criteria specified for NAF officers that can be eligible for posting to the Academy as instructors.
“In addition, I authorised the audit of selected ground and flying institutions in NAF by a team of experienced retired senior officers with a view to upgrading the practices and facilities at the institutions to meet international standards.“
Amao noted that the ongoing efforts would go a long way in positioning the institutions as centres of excellence in producing pilots, engineers, technicians and other specialists.
This, he said, would avail the personnel the opportunity to be well equipped to carry out their constitutional roles more effectively and efficiently in the defence of the territorial integrity of the country.
“Special arrangements are also currently being made to upgrade UAV training facilities to enhance the operational capacity of UAV operators in anticipation of increased tempo of air operations with the recently acquired UAVs.
“While sustaining capacity building programmes for the NAF Regiment in joint efforts for synergy of air-ground integrated operations with sister services.“
The CAS congratulated the young pilots and UAVs operators for successfully completing their various courses.
“You have put in the necessary hard work to get to this stage and your efforts have been recognised with the pinning of wings on your uniforms.
“You have therefore, left the stage of student aviators and have become pilots and UAV operators responsible for utilisation of national resources in our counter-insurgency and other security efforts.
“It is expected that you apply and build on your current experiences during your pre-deployment tactical training.
“Like I advised the last set of pilots and UAV operators, you must be relentless in the pursuit of excellence and professionalism as operational pilots and operators, while working with your colleagues across other specialties in the service.
“You must also strive to imbibe the doctrine of jointness at the frontlines as you interact with personnel from our sister services and other security agencies in pursuit of national securities imperatives.“
Amao thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for providing the enabling environment for NAF and the entire Armed Forces to function more effectively.
Earlier, the Chief of Training and Operations, AVM James Gwani, noted that the winging was the 5th under the administration of Amao.
He expressed optimism that the young pilots would boost NAF’s operational manpower, especially as the service was inducting and expecting more platforms to address the various security challenges across the country.
“I most sincerely express profound gratitude and appreciation to CAS, whose leadership has created the enabling environment for timely turn out of pilots and UAV operators in the NAF.
“To the pilots and UAV operators, tomorrow brings a new journey, but today marks the end of a chapter in your career as you have become qualified pilots and UAV operators.”.