By: Joy Odor/Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has taken over 3 L-39ZA aircraft, which were reactivated in-country by the original manufacturers of the aircraft, Messrs Aerovodochody of Czech Republic, assisted by NAF engineers and technicians.
The handing over ceremony, which had the Czech Republic Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Marek Skolil, in attendance, took place on Friday at the NAF 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS), Kano.
The Guest of Honour at the Ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar in his remarks said the handing over of the aircrafts marked another milestone in NAF’s efforts to ensure that 403 FTS continues to operate optimally.
He noted that the in-country reactivation of the aircrafts were also done in pursuit of the overall objective of domiciling all maintenance and training activities locally, thereby resulting in huge foreign exchange savings that could be channeled towards providing other facilities.
The CAS emphasized that the Service, having recognised the fact that a conducive atmosphere was key to ensuring that students derive maximum benefit from training institutions, had renovated and equipped classrooms; upgraded and re-equipped the map room and provided a new Computer-Based Training (CBT) Laboratory to supplement and enhance the training efforts of 403 FTS.
According to him, the reactivation will ensure that the NAF increases the number of fighter pilots available to man its existing fighter jets as well as the new platforms, such as the A-29 Super Tucano and JF-17 Thunder Multi-Role Fighter, which are to be inducted into NAF inventory soon.
Air Marshal Abubakar, who also noted that the NAF was encouraged by the presence of the Czech Ambassador at the event and explained that the project was a reflection of the Czech Republic Government’s commitment to the NAF’s capacity building efforts. He added that the Service was extremely pleased with what had been achieved in just four months, especially the transfer of skills and expertise to NAF engineers and technicians.
He stressed that the Service is looking forward to sustaining the good working relationship that has been re-established as well as having a long and fruitful partnership that is beneficial to the two countries.
CAS added that it is also his belief that they would reach a reasonable conclusion on plans to overhaul additional six L-39ZA aircrafts.
He commended the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for giving priority attention to NAF’s efforts in maintaining current platforms and equipment as well as the support given to NAF to acquire new platforms such as the A-29 Super Tucano, JF-17 aircraft as well as additional Mi-35M and Agusta A-109 Power helicopters.
He reiterated the unalloyed loyalty and commitment of the Service to continue to support the Federal Government in its policy thrust of providing security, improving the economy and fighting corruption.
In his remarks, the Czech Republic Ambassador noted that the supply of the L-29 aircraft were used for training as well as combat operations during the Nigerian Civil War.
He said this paved way for the acquisition of the L-39ZA, which has been used extensively by the NAF for training over the past 33 years and more recently, for operations in the Northeast.
Mr Skolil expressed his delight that Aerovodochody, which has been in the Aviation Industry for over 100 years, had completed the reactivation programme on time as well as to specification.
He said the Company has continued to evolve with changing technologies and recently launched the first prototype of the latest version of the L-39, the L-39Next Generation (L-39NG), which would be available for acquisition by the NAF at a reduced cost since the modernisation elements in the existing L-39s would not be phased out with their airframes but transferred to the new L-39NG.