Nigeria has joined China and United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the only countries operating the WingLoong II Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV).
In addition to the two inducted into the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), six other UCAVs are expected by early 2021.
The two WingLoong II can remain airborne for 31 hours in internal security reconnaissance (ISR) mode and 26 hours in an offensive role.
NAF Spokesperson, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said in a statement on Tuesday that the aircraft will add significant value to the nation’s counter-insurgency and anti-banditry operations.
Daramola said that in the last five years, 22 new aircraft have been acquired by the Air Force while 19 more are expected before June 2021.
According to the NAF Spokesperson, “close to 200 NAF pilots, engineers and technicians are undergoing training in nine different countries as part of efforts to bridge decades of gaps in capability and capacity that have made Nigeria vulnerable to asymmetrical threats.
“These additional new air assets and skills acquired by personnel will greatly enhance Nigerian Air Force’s operational effectiveness which will translate into security for Nigeria and Nigerians.”
On Monday, Daramola said in a statement that the service is set to take delivery of additional aircraft, including three JF-17 multi-role fighter aircraft while also reactivating several existing platforms such as the F-7Ni fighter jet.
This move, he said, is “the drive to reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of airpower in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.”
Daramola quoted Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who was on an operational visit to NAF Base Makurdi on Monday to assess the current reactivation work on the F-7 aircraft and commissioning of some infrastructural projects.
The projects include the newly-remodelled and fully-furnished NAF School of Air Intelligence as well as a block of accommodation for Pakistani pilots and technicians who would support the JF-17 aircraft during the first year of its operations in Nigeria.
Speaking after assessing the progress of work on the F-7Ni aircraft, Air Marshal Abubakar emphasised that these activities clearly show the level of seriousness with which the Government is working to ensure that the NAF gets some of its grounded aircraft back to flying status.
The idea, he said, is to ensure that the NAF has an adequate number of serviceable aircraft while building the capacity of NAF personnel in line with what was done with the Alpha Jets in Kainji as well as with the C-130Hs and the L-39ZAs aircraft in Ikeja and Kano, respectively.