By Raphael Jov, Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has successfully accomplished the first in-country overhaul of one of its helicopter gunships, the Mi-35P NAF 531.
This was revealed during the acceptance ceremony held for the helicopter at NAF’s 115 Special Operations Group (SOG), Port Harcourt.
The Mi-35P Helicopter was one of the critical air assets being employed in the counterinsurgency operations in the Northeast before it was grounded, having become due for scheduled overhaul.
Also restored to serviceability was an EC-135 Helicopter, NAF 548, which became unserviceable in March 2018 because of the need to undergo an engine modular change.
News Headquarter reports that the reactivation works on both helicopters were carried out in the hangar of 115 SOG by NAF engineers and technicians, who worked closely with some foreign technical partners.
Speaking during the acceptance ceremony, the Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command, Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, stated that the 2 newly reactivated helicopters would augment the number of air assets available for counterinsurgency operations and other Internal Security operations in the country.
He also expressed appreciation to the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for his vision of undertaking the Life Extension Programme (LEP) of the Mi-35P Helicopter locally and for authorizing timely release of resources to achieve the objective.
According to him, it was the first time the LEP of the Mi-35P Helicopter would be locally accomplished, a feat that had not only resulted in costs savings but also enhanced the capacity of NAF technical crews. He then disclosed that a similar major maintenance work had commenced on Mi-35P Helicopter NAF 530.
In his remarks at the event, the CAS stated that the process of reactivating the 2 helicopters was deliberately designed to ensure that the Technical Assistance Groups (TAG) exposed NAF technicians to every stage of the maintenance work, as part of efforts by the current NAF leadership at human capacity building.
“The work, which began on 27 February 2017, sets a new beginning for the NAF along its journey to a culture of self-reliance”, Air Marshal Abubakar proudly stated.
He then thanked members of the TAG for not only tutoring NAF technicians but also assisting in the repairs of unserviceable Ground Support Equipment. The CAS also congratulated the beneficiaries of the on-the-job training and then urged them to make maximum use of the newly acquired skills as they prepared to undertake the Periodic Depot Maintenance of Mi-35P Helicopter NAF 530.
The CAS acknowledged that the day’s achievements would not have been possible without the untiring efforts of personnel of 115 SOG, the support of the National Assembly and the enabling environment created by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The highlight of the ceremony was the Functional Check Flights (FCFs) carried out on the 2 newly reactivated helicopters, after appropriate ground checks by the technical crews.
The Commander 115 SOG, Air Commodore Elijah Ebiowei, led 3 other NAF pilots in flying the 2 aircraft and performing some acrobatics.
Subsequently, Air Commodore Ebiowei confirmed that the FCFs revealed that all necessary parameters on both helicopters were within limits thereby paving way for the presentation of aircraft documents and formal acceptance of the aircraft.
The 2 helicopters would be immediately deployed for operational duties.
Meanwhile, the CAS seized the opportunity to commission some projects executed by the Unit towards enhancing the welfare of personnel. Air Marshal Abubakar and the team of other senior NAF officers from Headquarters NAF had since returned to base.