Nigerian Air Force
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The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is the air arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is one of the largest in West Africa, consisting of about 10,000 personnel and aircraft including 15 Chengdu F-7s, and 24Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jets, armed helicopters, and military transport aircraft. However in recent years many of them are no longer airworthy. Previous combat aircraft, including 32 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s, Sepecat Jaguars, and Russian made bombers have been withdrawn from use. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says the force has 'very limited operational capability'.(IISS 2009)
Although the Air Force was originally proposed in 1958, many lawmakers preferred to rely on theUnited Kingdom for air defence. But during peacekeeping operations in Congo and Tanganyika, theNigerian Army had no air transport of its own, and so in 1962 the government began to recruit cadets for pilot training in various foreign countries, with the first ten being taught by the Egyptian Air Force.
The Nigerian Air Force was formally established on 18 April 1964 with the passage of the Air Force Act 1964 by the National Assembly. The Act stated that the 'Nigerian Air Force shall be charged with the defence of the Federal Republic by air, and to give effect thereto, the personnel shall be trained in such duties as in the air as well as on the ground. " The NAF was formed with technical assistance fromWest Germany. The air force started life as a transport unit with aircrew being trained in Canada, Ethiopia and India. The head of the German Air Force Assistance Group (GAFAG) was Colonel Gerhard Kahtz, and he became the first commander of the NAF. The nucleus of the NAF was thus established with the formation of the Nigerian Air Force headquarters at the Ministry of Defence.
The air force did not get a combat capability until a number of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 aircraft were presented by the Soviet Union during the Nigerian Civil War. On 13 August 1967, following several damaging attacks by Biafran aircraft, the USSR started delivering first MiG-17s from Egypt to Kano IAP, simultaneously sending a large shipment aboard a Polish merchant. Initially two MiG-15UTIs (NAF601 and NAF 602), and eight MiG-17s (NAF603 to NAF610) were supplied to Nigeria. Later six Il-28 bombers, flown by Egyptian and Czech pilots, were delivered from Egypt and stationed at Calabar and Port Harcourt, and were used to bomb military and civilian targets indiscriminately.
In July 1971 the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that Nigeria had 7,000 air force personnel and 32 combat aircraft: six Ilyushin Il-28medium bombers, eight MiG-17s, eight Aero L-29 Delfín jet trainers, and 10 P-149D trainers. Other aircraft included six C-47s, 20 Do-27/28s, and eightWestland Whirlwind and Alouette II helicopters.
During the 1970s, Nigeria bought Lockheed C-130 Hercules from the United States. Six were acquired, and officers reportedly received US $3.6 million dollars in kickbacks, compared to a total purchase price of $45 million.
From 1984 18 SEPECAT Jaguar (13 Jaguar SNs & 5 Jaguar BNs) were delivered and operated from Makurdi. They were retired in 1991. Nigeria purchased 24 Aero L-39 Albatros armed jet trainers in 1986-87 and tried to obtain 27 more in 1991 but the International Monetary Fund vetoed the purchase. It also prevented a 1994 purchase of 7 Pilatus PC-7's despite approval by the government of Switzerland.
On 26 September 1992, a NAF Lockheed C-130H Hercules serial number 911 crashed three minutes after take-off from Lagos, Nigeria, when three engines failed, possibly due to high take-off weight. All 158 people on board were killed, including 8 foreign nationals.
NAF organization has been fashioned to meet current requirements of the service and the defence needs of the country. Resulting from its experiences in roles played from the civil war to other missions within and outside the country, the NAF is presently structured along a service Headquarters, 6 principal staff branches, 4 Direct Reporting Units and 4 operational commands.
Nigerian Air Force Headquarters (HQ NAF) consist of the office of the Chief of the Air Staff and 6 staff branches namely; Policy and Plans Branch, Operations Branch, Logistics Branch, Administration Branch, Inspections Branch and Air Secretary Branch. Each of the branches is headed by an Air Officer. The NAF Headquarters and indeed the NAF is headed by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) who is the principal adviser to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff, on air related defence matters. HQ NAF is responsible for establishing long and short-term mission objectives and articulating policies, plans and procedures for the attainment of the policies. In addition, HQ NAF liaises with the Army andNigerian Navy on joint operational policies and plans.
Air Marshal Alex Sabundu BADEH DSS, psc, fdc(+), MSc-Chief of the Air Staff
The Mission and Vision of The Ngerian Air Force
The preoccupation or challenges of any military force are principally in 2 dimensions: getting the force prepared for operations and successfully conducting any operational task given. Success in the latter depends on the extent of achievement in the former. Force preparation is a continuous process that requires periodic reappraisal in order to align the force’s capability and readiness with the prevailing threat, contingencies, strategic plans of the Service and the Grand Strategy for National Security. The annual reappraisal of the focus and priorities of the Nigerian Air Force under the title, Statement of NAF Objectives (SNO) is in line with this process.
The 2009 SNO outlines the framework of our policy thrust for the year, in line with the Vision of the Chief of the Air Staff which is “To rebuild the operational capability of the Nigerian Air Force for effectiveness and efficient employment as a vital instrument of national policy in a rapidly changing world”. Therefore, these Objectives are designed to usher in a new strategy to develop the operational capability of the Nigerian Air Force while consolidating the gains of 2008.
The key drivers of the CAS Vision are Fleet Enhancement and Maintenance; Knowledge-based Operations and manpower Development; Service Impact/Advocacy; Funding and then Motivation. Along these routes, this Statement of Objectives identifies perennial obstacles to our force development and propounds short-term measures towards surmounting them. The operational, logistic and administrative objectives for year 2009 are thereafter drawn out based on these measures.
The origin of the Nigerian Armed Forces dates back to 1863 when the Hausa Constabulary was formed by the British. The Constabulary metamorphosed into the West Africa Frontier Force (WAFF) and then the Nigerian Regiment in 1956. It was then completely a land-based force. Later, the need to protect and patrol the Nigerian coastline and its resources led to the creation of the Nigerian Navy in 1956. These were the components of the Nigerian Armed Forces till 1962 when the idea of establishing an air force for Nigeria was first muted. The idea was triggered by the difficulties encountered when the country was called upon to participate in 2 foreign military operations in war-torn Republic of Congo in the early 1960s and to quell military insurrections in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1959. These missions saw Nigeria relying on civil aircraft or foreign air forces to convey her men and logistics to the theatre of conflict. Consequently, the establishment of a Nigerian Air Force was accepted in principle and the Nigerian Government approached a number of countries for assistance in training of Nigerian pilots as well as establishing the Force.
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) was formally established on 18 April 1964 with the passage of the Air Force Act 1964 by the Nigerian Parliament. The Act summarised the objectives of the NAF as follows:
The Nigerian Air Force shall be charged with the defence of the Federal Republic by air, and to give effect thereto, the personnel shall be trained in such duties as in the air as well as on the ground.
This goal provided the platform as well as the focus for the evolution and initial development of the NAF, fondly referred to as ‘the pride of the nation’.
The NAF organizational concept has been fashioned to meet current requirements of the service and the defence needs of the country. Resulting from its experiences in roles played from the civil war to other missions within and outside the country, the NAF is presently structured along aservice Headquarters, 7 principal staff branches, 4 operational commands and 4 Direct Reporting Units.