The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has commended pilots and other personnel participating in Operation THUNDER STRIKE 2 for their commitment, courage and doggedness in the fight to prevent the Albarnawi group of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT) from establishing a foothold in the Lake Chad Green fringes. The CAS, who was at the Headquarters of the Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LAFIYA DOLE in Maiduguri to monitor the progress of Operation THUNDER STRIKE 2, urged the young pilots to remain focused and unrelenting in their quest to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country. While assuring the young pilots of the commitment of the NAF in ensuring serviceability of various platforms in its inventory, Air Marshal Abubakar also stated that the welfare needs of the pilots, and indeed all NAF personnel, would continue to receive priority attention.
The steadily increasing number of young pilots who are flying various NAF platforms is a radical transformation from what obtained in the recent past when senior officers of the rank of Air Vice Marshal and Air Commodore were compelled to fly combat missions due to scarcity of young aircrew. It is imperative to state that most of these young, intelligent and courageous combat and operational support pilots, who are flying NAF platforms in the various theatres of operation, including the Northeast and Northwest, are junior officers of the ranks of Flying Officer to Squadron Leader within the age bracket of 25 to 33 years. They now fully man all components of the air operations ranging from combat; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) as well as air mobility missions, while the senior pilots provide the needed guidance and operational directives. These committed young and energetic pilots conduct multiple missions daily and often remain airborne for several hours monitoring incidents and providing air support to the surface forces.
The foregoing is evidence that the CAS vision of ‘Repositioning the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of Air Power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives’ is gradually being realized. In the last 3 years, the NAF has produced 90 young pilots, both male and female, most of whom have subsequently been deployed to various theatres of operation across the country. Additionally, for the first time in the history of the NAF, one of the female pilots is currently undergoing fighter pilot training in the United States of America. Many more young officers are also currently undertaking pilot training both locally and abroad to further bolster NAF’s operational capability.
Operation THUNDER STRIKE 2, which commenced on 3 September 2018, is an independent air interdiction operation aimed at destroying vestiges of BHT around the fringes of Lake Chad. It is a follow up to Operation THUNDER STRIKE 1, which was launched on 14 May 2018, to attack selected BHT locations that are inaccessible to surface forces on account of the swampy nature of the terrain in the aforementioned areas during the period of the rainy season.
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force