The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has taken over 3 L-39ZA aircraft, which were reactivated in-country by the original manufacturers of the aircraft, Messrs Aerovodochody of Czech Republic, assisted by NAF engineers and technicians. The colourful handing over ceremony, which had the Czech Republic Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Marek Skolil, in attendance, took place today, 21 June 2019, at the NAF 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS), Kano. The reactivation will ensure that the NAF increases the number of fighter pilots available to man its existing fighter jets as well as the new platforms, such as the A-29 Super Tucano and JF-17 Thunder Multi-Role Fighter, which are to be inducted into NAF inventory soon.
The Guest of Honour at the Ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, while making his remarks, explained that the handing over of the 3 reactivated aircraft marked another milestone in NAF’s efforts to ensure that 403 FTS continues to operate optimally. He noted that the in-country reactivation of the aircraft was also done in pursuit of the overall objective to domicile all maintenance and training activities locally, thereby resulting in huge foreign exchange savings which could be channeled towards providing other facilities. The CAS emphasized that the Service, having recognized the fact that conducive atmosphere was key to ensuring that students derive maximum benefit from training institutions, had renovated and equipped classrooms; upgraded and re-equipped the map room and provided a new Computer-Based Training (CBT) Laboratory to supplement and enhance the training efforts of 403 FTS.
Air Marshal Abubakar, who also noted that the NAF was encouraged by the presence of the Czech Ambassador at the event, explained that the project was a reflection of the Czech Republic Government’s commitment to the NAF’s capacity building efforts. He added that the Service was extremely pleased with what had been achieved in just 4 months, especially the transfer of skills and expertise to NAF engineers and technicians. According to him, “the Service is looking forward to sustaining the good working relationship that has been re-established as well as having a long and fruitful partnership that is beneficial to the 2 countries. It is also my belief that we will reach a reasonable conclusion on plans to overhaul additional 6 x L-39ZA aircraft”, he added.
The CAS seized the opportunity to thank the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for giving priority attention to NAF’s efforts in maintaining current platforms and equipment as well as the support given to NAF to acquire new platforms such as the A-29 Super Tucano, JF-17 aircraft as well as additional Mi-35M and Agusta A-109 Power helicopters. He reiterated the unalloyed loyalty and commitment of the Service to continue to support the Federal Government in its policy thrust of providing security, improving the economy and fighting corruption. Air Marshal Abubakar also commended the Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command as well as the Commander 403 FTS and his team of instructors, engineers, technicians and other supporting staff for their efforts at ensuring quality training for student fighter pilots and providing serviceable aircraft that can support and sustain training. He equally lauded the Chiefs of Aircraft Engineering and Logistics for providing the leadership and direction that ensured the success of the reactivation process.
In his remarks, the Czech Republic Ambassador traced the history of the long standing cordial relationship between Nigeria and Czech Republic since independence, especially the various contributions in terms of military technical assistance, equipment and training. He especially noted the supply of the L-29 aircraft, which were used for training as well as combat operations during the Nigerian Civil War. He noted that this paved way for the acquisition of the L-39ZA, which has been used extensively by the NAF for training over the past 33 years and, more recently, for operations in the Northeast. Mr Skolil expressed his delight that Aerovodochody, which has been in the Aviation Industry for over 100 years, had completed the reactivation programme on time as well as to specification. He said the Company has continued to evolve with changing technologies and recently launched the first prototype of the latest version of the L-39, the L-39Next Generation (L-39NG), which would be available for acquisition by the NAF at a reduced cost since modernization elements in the existing L-39s would not be phased out with their airframes but transferred to the new L-39NG.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Commander 403 FTS, Air Commodore Nnamdi Ananaba, highlighted that the reactivation of the 3 aircraft had commenced a few months after the graduation ceremony of Basic Flying Course 18 (BFC – 18), when the school did not have enough aircraft to accommodate an increased demand for fighter pilot training occasioned by the need to meet aircrew requirements for newly acquired platforms. He lauded the CAS, who, he said, in characteristic manner, declared a state of emergency and orchestrated the processes that led to the reactivation of the 3 L-39ZA aircraft, within record time, as well as the improvement of facilities in the school to accommodate a larger intake of students. At the end of the ceremony, an acceptance flight, which featured some aerobatic maneuveres, was conducted on the newly reactivated aircraft.
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force