The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has inaugurated an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) student pilots training course, (UAV SP2) made up of 13 officers following the successes recorded in the training of UAV SP1 where the officers were said to have contributed immensely to the ongoing operations in the northeast.
Speaking on the occasion of the handing and taking over ceremony of the Dornier 228 aircraft (NAF 027) at the NAF base in Kaduna on Wednesday, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar who was represented by the Chief of Logistics, NAF headquarters, Air Vice Marshal Isyaku Mohammed said the NAF temporary halted the training due to several challenges experienced with the Mugin Trainer when they became unserviceable.
He said, “The NAF had in the past sought for slots abroad for the training of its UAV pilots, it soon dawned on the NAF that it is either that these slots are not available or they are tailored to specific UAVs and as a result of that NAF decided to look inwards for its UAV pilot training and the Nigerian Air Force Optimizing Local Engineering Project 1now Air Force Research and Development Centre was tasked with selection and training of UAV pilots in the Service.”
He noted that by June 2016 most of the students have flown about 157 sorties out of the 200 required for graduation.
Commenting on the Dornier 228 aircraft after in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM), the CAS said the aircraft which is a light transport aircraft has seen action in most of the major military operations involving the Nigerian Armed Forces within and outside the country.
He added, “Aside military operations, the aircraft were utilized intensively in aids of civil authority such as the movement of election officials and sensitive election materials for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and also played a major role in the delivery of relief materials during emergencies and environmental monitoring during times of natural disaster.
“NAF 027 was manufactured in 1984 by Dornier Aviation of Germany now RUAG limited. It was inducted into the NAF on 22nd January, 1958 making it the oldest aircraft of the Do 228 series in the NAF. Having flown about 6000 flying hours, the aircraft was due for 1200 hours inspection since 2016 and in line with in-ward looking policy of the NAF a contract for the conduct of the 1200 hours inspection was awarded to Messrs DANA limited in August 2016.”
In his remarks, the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, NAF headquarters, Air Vice Marshal Kingsley Lar said the UAV pilots training was spurred by the desire of NAF to domesticate technologies for UAV production and operation through the establishment of the Air Force Research and Development Centre (AFRDC) and the greater impetus given to the production of the operational version of the Gulma UAV.
Also, the Air Officer Commanding NAF Training Command, Kaduna, AVM Christopher Okoye said the key requirement for the fulfilment of NAF statutory mission of ensuring the integrity of Nigeria’s airspace is the availability of sufficient platforms for air operations.
Commenting on the student pilot training course, he noted that the NAF has been able to reactivate the training platforms, modified them to ensure robustness and upgrade systems to enable the conduct of both external and internal pilot training.