By Raphael Jov
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, in continuation of the series of visits being undertaken to assess and enhance the operational effectiveness of Nigerian Air Force (NAF) units across the country, on 23 June 2018, visited NAF units in Makurdi.
The visit equally afforded the CAS the opportunity to visit the Headquarters of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS) as well as interact with NAF personnel deployed for the operation.
The Chairman House Committee on the Air Force, Honourable Samson Okwu, also accompanied the CAS on the visit.
During the visit, the CAS and other senior officers were briefed by both the Joint Task Force Commander, Major General Adeyemi Yekini, and the Air Component Commander/Deputy Force Commander OPWS, Group Captain Precious Amadi.
The briefing highlighted the successes recorded since the establishment of the Operation, which had led to a reduction in violence in the 3 states under the Force’s area of responsibility, namely Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States.
In his remarks, the CAS stated that the NAF was committed to ensuring the security of lives and properties of all Nigerians.
He stated that the NAF had therefore contributed about 300 Special Forces personnel to OPWS along with the deployment of an array of fighter aircraft, Mi-35 helicopter gunships as well as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms to bring an end to the security challenges in the State.
Furthermore, the CAS expressed satisfaction with the level of progress achieved in the operation and commended the Commander, officers and men of OPWS for the successes so far achieved.
He assured them that the NAF would continue to provide all necessary support to ensure even greater results in the operation.
The CAS also thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for creating an enabling environment for the NAF to continue to carry out its constitutional roles.
One of the highlights of the visit was the formal induction of the Mi-35P helicopter gunship, NAF 531, for combat duties in OPWS, as part of NAF’s contributions towards curbing violence in Benue State and environs.
It would be recalled that the helicopter was recently declared serviceable following the completion of in-country overhaul/life extension programme carried out by NAF engineers and technicians, who worked closely with some foreign technical partners.
Nevertheless, a prerequisite for the induction of the helicopter into combat was the conduct of a successful live firing/range classification exercise.
The exercise had to hold to ascertain the effectiveness of the helicopter’s weapon systems and also exercise the pilots and other crew members on weapons delivery. Accordingly, the Commander 115 Special Operations Group Port Harcourt, Air Commodore Elijah Ebiowei, led the team of pilots that conducted the weapons delivery and range classification exercise, which took place at the NAF Range, Kwenev, near Makurdi.
Air Commodore Ebiowe subsequently confirmed that the exercise was successful, with the helicopter’s weapons systems performing within expected parameters.
Air Marshal Abubakar, Honourable Okwu and the team of senior NAF officers from Headquarters NAF had since returned to Abuja.