By Desmond Ejibas
The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar says the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) will soon take delivery of 18 attack helicopters to boost its fleet of aircraft.
Abubakar said this at a one-day tour of formations and units under the NAF 115 Special Operations Group (SOG) in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
He said that 12 attack helicopters would be supplied by the United States while another six helicopters would be provided by the Turkish government in September.
“We are not deterred by recent developments as the Federal Government has approved the acquisition of 12 AH1 Zulu Cobra and six T129 Helicopters from the United States and Turkey respectively.
“The first two T129 helicopters are scheduled to come into operation by September, to enhance our operational capabilities.
“So, yes, we are saddened by the recent loss of our airplane (MI 171 helicopter) but then, we have a lot more (aircraft
) coming in and our capabilities are increasing,” he said.
Abubakar said he visited the state to commisurate with families of the NAF pilots and crew that died in the ill-fated helicopter crash in Niger on Aug. 14.
“So, we came here to express our deepest condolences to the immediate family members of the crew that we lost.
“The 115 special operations group is the home base for the airplane and all the crew that were onboard the unfortunate crash of our MI-171 helicopter.
“Aside this, we are also here to interact with the officers and men of the unit to encourage and assure them of our support in Operation Delta Safe,” he added.
The air force chief said the deceased crew onboard the crashed aircraft included the pilot, co-pilot and two airmen – who oversaw the cabin.
He said the air force was currently putting measures in place to put an end to crashes of military aircraft in the country.
According to him, the measures included the setting up of an air crash investigation board to detect the probable causes of the crash to mitigate future recurrence.
“NAF has a target innovation of zero accidents, but the truth is that as long as we keep operating, there will be incidents because it is human beings that operate the aircraft.
“We have also established and empowered our NAF Institute of Safety – where we train our pilots and technicians in the fundamentals of safety to improve safety culture in the air force.
“The overall aim is that in the nearest future, we will have a well engraved safety culture in realisation of our target of zero accidents and incidents in NAF,” he said.
Abubakar said the air force would continue to intensify the deployment of its attack helicopters in clamping down on illegal refineries in the Niger Delta.
He said that joint operations with sister security agencies had led to the destruction of several illegal refining sites and confiscation of vessels used in stealing crude oil from the region. (NAN)