The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) today, 16 April 2018, winged two Liberian pilots, who are the first set of pilots to be trained for the Liberian Armed Forces thereby strengthening the long-standing relationship between Nigeria and Liberia.
The Liberian pilots had their ab-initio flying training at the NAF 401 Flying Training School (FTS) in Kaduna before the NAF facilitated the conduct of their advanced pilot training at the International Aviation College (IAC), Ilorin.
Additionally, 12 NAF pilots who completed their advanced training from the IAC and the Afrika Union Aviation Academy (AUAA), South Africa, were winged at the occasion, bringing the total number of pilots produced by the NAF in the last two years to 80.
The Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD), Mansur Dan Ali, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Mrs Nuratu Batagarawa, decorated the young pilots with their pilot wings. The occasion was attended by the Honourable Minister of Defence of the Republic of Liberia, Major General Daniel Ziankahn (Retired), who decorated the newly trained pioneer Liberian Armed Forces pilots.
In his remarks, the Liberian Minister of National Defence expressed delight over the long-standing relationship between the two countries, which according to him, has now facilitated the training of the first set of military pilots for the Liberian Armed Forces.
The Minister, who was full of praises for the NAF leadership, lauded the NAF for not only facilitating the training of its pilots but also standing side by side with the country during its trying times.
The representative of the Minister of Defence (HMOD), Mrs Batagarawa, in her remarks, noted that the occasion marked the second winging ceremony by the NAF in 2018, thus bringing the total number of pilots winged this year to 25. She therefore congratulated the NAF for the sustained efforts at building the needed capacity to continue tackling the security challenges currently bedevilling the country.
Mrs Batagarawa further expressed happiness at the current state of affairs in the NAF, adding that “the NAF is now better positioned to shoulder the huge responsibility bestowed on it by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. The HMOD then reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria to continue to provide the needed support for the NAF and for the rest of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
Earlier in his address, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, reiterated the commitment of the NAF towards building capacity to meet emerging security challenges of the Twenty First Century.
According to the CAS, “the accomplishments of the NAF pilots and other personnel, who are undertaking daring missions in the face of real danger are testimonies to the quality of training they have received”.
He added, however, that despite the successes recorded so far, the Service was fully aware of the need to train and retrain personnel, including pilots. Consequently, Air Marshal Abubakar stated that the NAF was not resting on its oars but constantly building the required capacity to optimally project air power in the various theatres of operations in fulfilment of Nigeria’s national security imperatives.
Accordingly, in realization of the drive for human capacity development, the CAS stated that 4 NAF student pilots were undergoing training with the United States Air Force and one of them is the first potential female fighter pilot in the NAF. In addition, he said the NAF had a student pilot training with the Royal Moroccan Air Force and 4 Student Instructor Pilots training at the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
“Coming back home, there are 64 student pilots at various stages of flying training in various NAF flying training schools. They are all expected to graduate by the end of this year”, the CAS added. Air Marshal Abubakar then charged the newly winged pilots to conduct themselves as professionals and treat innocent citizens with respect and dignity when deployed to operational units. He however added that they should be very decisive in dealing with those that are out to undermine the security of Nigerians and that of the nation.
In an interview later granted to Defence Correspondents, Air Marshal Abubakar explained that the NAF was focusing a lot on the training of pilots and associated crew, being mindful of the fact that, for the first time in a while, 6 brand new helicopters were being inducted into the Service at about the same time, with more on the way.
The Rector of IAC, Captain Abdulmumuni Abdukarim, lauded the initiative by the NAF to partner with the IAC, an initiative that has led to the in-country training of many NAF pilots.
The Rector was full of praises for NAF student pilots, who he said, always displayed unusually high levels of proficiency after undergoing their initial flying training at 401 FTS Kaduna. Besides, Captain Abdukarim observed that the revenue being generated from the partnership with the NAF had helped to sustain the College.
“This partnership has further sustained the existence of the school and helped to develop local content, as many African countries are starting to appreciate the offerings of the institution”, he added.
The newly winged pilots would now be deployed to various theatres of operation to add impetus to the current efforts of the NAF at bringing peace to the nation. The winging ceremony was well attended by families and friends of the new pilots who travelled from all over the world to witness the occasion.