Pilot training in the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) received further boost with the recent winging of 25 additional pilots comprising 20 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilots and 5 fixed and rotary wing aircraft pilots. Speaking during the winging ceremony at NAF Headquarters, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Amao specifically expressed his delight at the winging of UAV pilots as UAVs, unlike manned aircraft, offer relatively lower costs of procurement, operation, and maintenance as well as a capability to undertake high risk operations. With the recent acquisition of new platforms for the NAF, the CAS noted that the increased manpower base of both manned and unmanned pilots would be critical to NAF’s future operations. According to Air Marshal Amao, “All these efforts at pilots training are aimed at maintaining combat readiness at significantly higher levels to counter both domestic and foreign threats to the nation’s security and wellbeing of our people.” Air Marshal Oladayo Amao also disclosed that more pilots as well as personnel from other specialties were attending various trainings both at home and abroad. These efforts, according to him, are expected to place the NAF in a dominant position to deliver on its constitutional role especially in the light of its involvement in several counter insurgency and anti-banditry operations across the country.

Speaking further, Air Marshal Amao noted that the NAF currently has a total of 169 officers and airmen/airwomen undergoing diverse training courses overseas cutting across several specialties and trades. Out of this number, according to the CAS, 44 are student pilots who are undergoing training in South Africa, the United States as well as in NAF training facilities in Kano and Kaduna. The CAS also revealed that a set of 21 officers will soon resume UAV training at the 401 FTS, Kaduna and are projected to complete their training by March 2022. He added that, under his watch as the CAS, the NAF has also developed a formal capacity to train UAV Pilots from Ab-Initio to tactical level of flying. Despite these achievements, the CAS noted that the NAF cannot afford to rest on its oars in training its personnel for improved operational effectiveness. “This is in view of the Federal Government’s determination in acquiring state of the art weaponry to enable the Armed Forces of Nigeria combat the numerous security challenges in the Country”, he added. Air Marshal Amao also paid glowing tribute to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari for his unwavering commitment and support to the development and enhancement of the entire Armed Forces of Nigeria.

While giving the highlights of the training content, the Chief of Training and Operations (CTOP), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) James Gwani disclosed that of the 25 winged pilots, 17 had completed the UAV Course 3 while 3 completed the CH-3A UAV Operational Conversion Course locally at 401 Flying Training School (FTS), Kaduna. The 5 fixed and rotary wing pilots, on the other hand, completed the L-39 Basic and Advanced Pilot Training at the Centre of Flying Training of the Czech Air Force, Czech Republic. They also underwent training at the Basic Military Helicopter as well as Mission and Tactics Training at United States Army Aviation Flight School, Fort Rucker and Western Army Aviation Training Site, Arizona, United States. For the UAV training, AVM Gwani further stated that the Course was divided into 3 phases; the ground academics, UAV initial flying and Basic UAV training phase and entailedd each officer flying the minimum requirement of an average of 45 hours comprising 10 hours actual and 35 hours simulator flight hours at the initial flying phase. “The Basic UAV training phase involved 40 hours internal UAV pilot training on UAV mission planning and execution, emergency procedures, position reporting as well as external and internal pilot coordination amongst others”, he said. The L-39 Basic and Advanced Pilot Training was however conducted in 2 phases: Basic Flying Training and Advanced Flying phase. According to AVM Gwani, the officers flew an average of 60 hours on the L-39 aircraft in the Basic Flying training phase before proceeding to the Advanced flying training phase. He further stated that the Advanced flying training phase consisted of 80 instructional flight hours covering medium and low-level formation flying, Strike training comprising single and two ship as well as introduction to basic fighter manoeuvre offensive and defensive. In all, according to the CTOP, the officers had an average of 140 hours of actual flying. I am glad to state that the average pass mark of the entire course was 80 percent.” he concluded.

Recall that barely 2 months ago, precisely on16 July 2021, the CAS winged 6 young NAF helicopter pilots, who had completed their basic flying training at Draken Helicopter Academy, United Kingdom. These trainings are part of efforts to enhance the operational readiness of the NAF as noted by the CAS when he stated that, “The most critical airpower capability that must be enhanced and sustained for effective and efficient performance is the human being that operates the air platforms.”

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