The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, yesterday, said the present security challenges in the country required robust security architecture and a versatile air force capable of rapid air power deployment across the theatres of war.
Speaking against the backdrop of concerns that bandits and terrorists had acquired the capacity to bring down fighter planes, Amao, who was addressing troops in Maiduguri, Borno State, during the Sallah celebration said, the security threat confronting the nation required robust security architecture capable of rapid deployment of air power.
He allayed fears over the vulnerability of the fighter planes, insisting that the air force pilots were equipped for such encounters with adversaries hence downing of the war planes by bandits and insurgents were not regular occurrences.
He, however, said air force personnel were energised by the heroism of Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, who survived the air crash in Zamfara State by ejecting from the aircraft and wading through strongholds of bandits to safety.
Amao, who celebrated sallah with troops in company with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya said, “The security threats currently facing the nation and the challenges therein required the emplacement of a robust security architecture capable of rapid employment of air power in all spectrums of warfare.
“The paradigm shift in the way air warfare is waged in the fulfillment of mission objectives necessitates a highly versatile air force capable of executing a wide range of airpower roles across multiple theatres of operation to deal with these security threats”.
He said the collaborative efforts between the NAF and sister agencies, which had enhanced operational effectiveness of the entire (AFN) contributed in minimising the threats posed by insurgents.
Amao, therefore, assured the troops that the NAF would continue to enhance its synergy with other arms of the military and security agencies while leveraging each other’s capabilities to secure the nation.
In a chat with THISDAY, Spokesman of the Air Force, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, said the air force was aware of the lethal weapons wielded by bandits and insurgents, insisting that pilots were equipped for such eventualities.
“The likelihood of bandits possessing such weapons have always been considered and the NAF have been aware of the lethality of these weapons. Our pilots have also been trained to guard against such attacks hence the reason why we haven’t had this type of situation in the past until last Sunday”, he said.
Gabkwet maintained that Dairo’s heroism was a pointer to the determination of the air force chief to fight until the criminal elements were defeated.
“So, there is nothing to worry about as the NAF is fully prepared to deal with the situation. The sheer bravity of Flight Lieutenant Dairo in the face of glaring danger recently has energised our personnel. Dairo’s heroism should also convince Nigerians that the NAF under Air Marshal Oladayo Amao will continue to fudge on until these criminals are brought to their knees,” he said.
A statement issued by the air force also said the coming together of the two service chiefs to celebrate Sallah with troops in Maiduguri “was a demonstration of the jointness at the highest echelon of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya and Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, who feted personnel of the Air Component of Operation HADIN KAI (OPHK) to a buffet lunch at Maiduguri.”
In his remarks at the lunch, the CAS captured the essence of the visit, which he said provided an opportunity to not only bond with frontline troops but also to promote comradeship and regimentation in the service.
The lunch, according to the CAS, also provided an opportunity to remember colleagues, who had paid the supreme price in the service to fatherland.
While expressing pride in the efforts of all NAF officers, airmen and airwomen participating in internal security operations in different parts of the country, Air Marshal Amao stated that, the NAF, through the Air Component of OPHK, would continue to perform overly critical roles in providing the much-needed air support for the effective conduct of ground operations by the Land Component.
On the gallantry displayed by Fight Lieutenant Dairo, after successfully ejecting from an Alpha Jet, before it was downed by the terrorists, the CAS commended NAF and Nigerian Army personnel, who worked tirelessly to locate the crash site and the pilot’s parachute, while also combing nearby locations for the pilot.
On his part, Yahaya commended the personnel for their dedication and commitment to counterinsurgency operations under OPHK.
He went down memory lane to recall his days as the Theatre Commander of OPHK, where he enjoyed unfettered access to all the platforms and facilities under the air component commander, while expressing gladness that the cooperation between the land and air component had continued even after his tenure.
Yahaya singled out the air power characteristics of speed and reach which, when combined with the army’s ability to hold the ground as critical to bringing the current security challenges to a halt.
The service chiefs also took time off to pay a courtesy visit to the Governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum.
The governor praised both service chiefs for the synergy their joint efforts brought to the battle against insurgents in the state, while urging them to sustain the momentum.
The service chiefs were accompanied on the visit by the Theatre Commander, Maj. Gen. Chris Musa; GOC 7 Division Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Abdulwahab Eyitayo; Chief of Operations (Army), Maj. Gen. Olufemi Akinjobi; Chief of Training and Operations NAF, AVM James Gwani and Provost Marshal, Maj. Gen. Robert Aiyenigba.
Others were Chief of Air Intelligence, AVM Ibukun Ojeyemi; Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command, AVM Gamsu Lubo and Ag. Chief of Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Danladi Salihu.