The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in its efforts to tackle insurgency in the North East, banditry and cattle rustling in the North West parts of the country has introduced various air operations to combat these emerging threats.
To achieve this, the NAF introduced Operation DIRAN MIKIYA and SHARAN DAJI in 2018 to the rescue in the North West, following President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to security forces to flush out bandits terrorising some villages in the North West, especially in Zamfara.
The Nigerian Air Force then deployed required logistics facilities, ground support equipment and troops to Katsina State, signaling the commencement of Operation Diran Mikiya in Zamfara.
Other air assets such as helicopter gunships and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms were not left out of the deployment.
The NAF said the choice of Katsina as operating base for NAF platforms was predicated on its proximity to Zamfara for effective and immediate response.
Operation Diran Mikiya is an intensive air operation aimed at locating and neutralising bandits and other criminal elements in the North West with a view to restoring normalcy in the affected areas.
Few months into the Operation, the Service in collaboration with other security agencies has recorded significant successes.
As part of efforts to further tackle this menace and other security challenges in the Country, the NAF in May, inaugurated a 271 detachment in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State.
The 271 NAF detachments were established as a blocking force for troops involved in Operation DIRAN MIKIYA and SHARAN DAJI.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar, during the inauguration said the NAF for some time now had been involved in various internal security operations in the country, either singularly or in conjunction with sister security agencies.
“Accordingly, the 271 NAF Detachment was established as a blocking force for troops involved in Operation DIRAN MIKIYA and SHARAN DAJI.
“The Air Chief NAF is committed to seeing that the territorial integrity of our dear country is preserved as this is the only country we can call our own.
“It is our desire, therefore, to ensure that the menace of terrorism, kidnapping, cattle rustling and armed banditry are curtailed, if not completely eradicated,’’ he said.
Combating these emerging security threats in the Country, the NAF went further to establish a Special Operations Command (SOC) in Bauchi, to complement existing security arrangements in the State.
Abubakar said Bauchi was strategic to the NAF and its operations in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.
He said this prompted the establishment of the SOC in 2016 to execute and coordinate special operations missions such as precision application of fire power; infiltration, re-supply and protection tasks in combat air support operations; ISR as well as Search and Rescue roles.
Abubakar added that in a bid to expand its capacity and reduce the strain on facilities at the Regiment Training Centre (RTC) Kaduna to enable the training of more Regiment and Special Forces (SF) personnel, the Service had established an RTC Annex in Bauchi, where 300 personnel had already commenced training.
He noted that an RTC Annex had also been established at Ipetu-Ijesha in Osun State, while another one would soon be established at Owerri in Imo State.
The CAS equally highlighted that the SOC was also particularly established to enhance NAF’s capability to support Internal Security operations across the Country as well as bring security closer to the Nigerian people.
He noted that it was to this end that the SOC’s component units, which include Quick Response Groups/Wings and Forward Operating Bases at Gusau in Zamfara State, Agatu in Benue State, Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State, Ipetu-Ijesha in Osun State and Gembu in Taraba State, amongst others, was established.
He disclosed that the Regiment and SF personnel deployed to these units have continued significantly to security efforts at the various locations, working in synergy with personnel of the Nigerian Army (NA) and other security agencies.
Abubakar reiterated the NAF’s wholehearted commitment to continue to work with other security agencies to ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians.
The NAF through its air power assists equally recorded some successes in its operations in the North East aimed at restoring peace in the region.
The Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LAFIYA DOLE, Operation Thunder Strike 2, Operation Green Sweep had successfully neutralised some of the insurgents, attacked thieve hideouts, camps and facilities in Borno.
The Nigerian Air Force to further tackle insecurity in the country inducted two Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopters into the NAF inventory.
The two new aircraft were inducted by President Muhammadu Buhari at the NAF 55th anniversary in Abuja.
Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the occasion, said the new additions were part of the federal government’s commitment to equipping the armed forces in order to tackle insecurity and protect Nigerians.
‘’As part of our continued commitment to equip the armed forces toward tackling insecurity and protecting our citizens, after this parade today, I will induct into the Service of the Nigerian Air Force 2 x Agusta 109 Power Helicopters which were recently delivered.
‘’ These helicopters and other additional helicopters expected to arrive in the next few months will surely boost performance of the Nigerian air force constitutional roles.
‘’I, therefore charge you to redouble your efforts toward protecting our national interests, while at the same time degrading national security threats,’’ he said.
The president said the NAF had been fulfilling its constitutional mandate of preserving Nigeria’s territorial integrity through the employment and projection of air power.
‘’Aside the role of preserving territorial integrity, the Nigerian air force has also been playing vital roles in Peace-Keeping Operations on the African continent,” Buhari said
Abubakar noted that 55 years of the existence of the Nigerian Air Force had been very eventful.
‘’During this period, the NAF was confronted with a myriad of challenges. However, we were able to surmount these challenges and progressively maturing in the process.
‘’The NAF has also grown in size, spread and equipment holding all in a bid to fulfill its statutory obligation of protecting and defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria from the air,’’ he said.
Abubakar said that the growth of the NAF since the inception of the Service had been particularly outstanding, adding that ‘’from having only a few trainers and transport aircraft in the early years of the service, the NAF currently has an impressive ORBAT (Order of Battle) comprising diverse aircraft with capabilities to perform a wide spectrum of missions.’’
‘’We have also continued to build upon the foundations laid by our noble predecessors by re-activating several aircraft that were hitherto grounded; acquired and inducted various platforms into service and increased the strength of service personnel by 7,500 airmen/airwomen and 400 officers.
‘’Additionally, two new commands and two staff branches were established to meet the evolving security challenges we are faced with,’’ the air chief said.