In 2016 alone the Nigerian Air Force flew 6773 hours in 2,105 missions and 3,534 sorties in its operations in the North-East, striking key locations and assets sometimes as many as about 25 times a day.
That number increased by %50 in 2017 as the Nigerian army executed the mother of all offensive – Operation Lafya Dole, the campaign to take back the 22,000 km Sambisa forest.
From Alpha light attack jets to the Aero L-39 Albatros to the Chengdu F-7N1 fighter to Mi-24/35 helicopter gunships, Mi-17sh multirole helicopter, CH-3A Rainbow remotely piloted aircraft, the service used all the aircraft to meet its mission demand.
While there are shortcomings in the NAF,often unheralded is the Air Force’s performance against Boko Haram , from the successful intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions flown by the King Air 350i and ATR-42 ISR aircraft, to the ability of the three decade old Alpha jet to destroy the Boko Haram logistics bases and camps.
But what aircraft conducts the most strikes? Which fighters soar from the flightline more often?
The Alpha light attack jet can lay claim to the title for the Nigerian aircraft to release the most ordnance. The 34 year old Alpha jet has dropped almost 80 percent of the Air Force bombs on Boko Haram targets.
The Nigerian Air Force is using five unmanned aircraft for its missions in support of the Air campaign war against Boko Haram.
Bizzarely enough, despite its near infinite resources and the security imperative of the service, the NAF has not invested in the platforms to ensure that, pretty much any target that the enemy would have, it will have the type of weapons and the number of weapons to make sure that it’s going to be a first look, a successful strike that eliminates that target from the battle space.
The term “precision strikes” is non-existent in the NAF vocabulary, and this is rather unfortunate. Rather than invest in modern platforms, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique continuously tout the Alpha jets unique abilities, in various theaters, and point to its performance against Boko Haram as evidence that it remains relevant and effective, flying 80 percent of the sorties against Boko Haram.
Top of his priority is capacity building and ground infrastructure, these includes the construction of gymnasiums, sewing machine factories, fish farming, a forensic lab, and holding sporting events.
A month ago, October 20 to be precise, the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, inaugurated a newly constructed water segmentation tank, as well as overhead and surface water tanks at the Nigerian Air Force Base in Makurdi.
Well, you cannot say the Nigerian Air Force is not a progressive one, delving into agriculture and fashion during Nigeria’s longest, bloodiest and costliest war since the civil war in 63,
With the Air Force’s total inventory of seven F-7Ni fighters, it is by no means a coincidence the F-7Ni flies and drops the least amount of ordnance from all the aircraft in the Aeria of Operation.
Hopefully the arrival of the Super Tucano and JF-17 Thunder will introduce precision bombing capability to the Nigerian Air Force.