Air Marshal Hasan Abubakar: Renewed Hope For A Greater Nigerian Air Force By Debo Oladimeji

Since its establishment, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has played vital roles in military operations against adversaries. While equipment shortages were a challenge in the past, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, upon assuming the role of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN), has demonstrated an appreciable commitment to supporting and encouraging the AFN in addressing the nation's various security challenges. 

Shortly after taking office, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu appointed Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar as the 22nd Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) alongside other Service Chiefs and the Chief of Defence Staff. Under its new leadership, the NAF has undeniably experienced significant improvements.

It is no longer news that the NAF has begun to take delivery of modern military equipment which are essential to ongoing operations in different parts of Nigeria. A few weeks back, the NAF received 2 additional Diamond-62 (DA-62) aircraft at a colourful ceremony held in Ilorin, Kwara State. The platforms have since been deployed to the operating theatres in support of the ongoing efforts to restore peace and stability in troubled areas within the country.

Relatedly, the Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD), Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and the CAS visited Turkiye to facilitate the speedy delivery of the T-129 ATAK helicopters acquired for the NAF by the Federal Government. In all, 6 T-129 ATAK helicopters were procured from Turkish Aerospace Industry, out of which 2 are to be delivered to the NAF in the coming weeks. The remaining helicopters are expected before the end of the Second Quarter of 2024. Several other platforms are being expected by the NAF. They include the M346FA aircraft, AW109 Trekker light attack helicopter, AH-1Z Super Cobra, and the King Air 360i Beechcraft aircraft. 

However, while the supply of advanced military equipment is vital, it's essential to note that ensuring the welfare of those operating the equipment is equally critical in achieving success in the ongoing conflict. In line with this thought, Air Marshal Abubakar believes that the operational successes of the NAF are majorly hinged on a highly motivated force. This is because he believes that the most valuable resource that the NAF possesses is its personnel and without well-motivated and dedicated personnel, the most sophisticated weapon system will be ineffective.

As a result, Air Marshal Abubakar has not only triumphed in advocating for additional equipment to remove constraints experienced in prior years and their effects on operations but has also invigorated NAF personnel to further commit to eradicating subversive elements. This commitment comes from an enhanced focus on personnel welfare, aiming to safeguard the peace, progress, unity, and integrity of Nigeria. He has achieved this by actively prioritizing the well-being of all NAF personnel. 

This was further cemented during the recent reception of documents for 43.746 hectares of land from the Kaduna State Government. At the event, Abubakar emphasized that, under his leadership, the NAF is dedicated to ensuring the welfare of its personnel. He highlighted that the NAF's operational success is heavily reliant on a highly motivated workforce. 

His devotion to the welfare of personnel guided his decision to use the allocated land by the Kaduna State Government for the development of affordable houses for NAF personnel. The proposed post-housing scheme aptly aligns with one of the key enablers of his Command Philosophy of maintaining a highly motivated force by strengthening both welfare and infrastructure. In addition, his administration has awarded contracts for the construction of roads within some NAF establishments, upgrade of transformers, renovation of personnel residents and the construction of new accommodation.

Closely related to the maintenance of a highly motivated force is providing the needed capacity for troops. Abubakar showed the understanding that personnel can only deliver much on their jobs if they are given the required training needed to carry out assigned tasks. As a result, the NAF is leveraging overseas training to address deficiencies in needed skills and capabilities. The more skilled and proficient the personnel are, the better they can execute their tasks, reducing errors and minimizing the risk of accidents or mishaps. 

As anticipated, a strategic blend of essential equipment and highly motivated troops has yielded recent accomplishments for the NAF. Recent air strikes on various targets in different regions have been notably successful. Of particular significance is the NAF's precision air strike by the Air Component of Operation Haradin Daji around Sangeko axis of Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State. The terrorists, who were in a convoy of about 70 motorcycles on the road track leading from Kabaro towards Sangeko, were subsequently engaged with several neutralized, their motorcycles destroyed, and others injured.

Likewise, on 14 October 2023, the NAF carried out air interdiction missions at a newly identified terrorists’ hideout at Bukar Meram, near the Lake Chad region. Feedback received after the strikes revealed the expected outcome was achieved as several terrorists were neutralized while over 40 motorcycles and 6 gun trucks were destroyed.  thereby degrading their ability to attack ground troops as well as innocent Nigerians. 

It is no longer business as usual for Boko Haram and other terrorists as they are now surrendering to the military as they know that their game is up.  There is no hiding place for them any longer with the renewed onslaught against their operation by the NAF. To a large extent, NAF has been able to sustain and enhance its critical air power capabilities while ensuring that the activities of terrorists, insurgents and other criminal elements are significantly curtailed under its new leadership.

These feats have been largely expedited by 5 key enablers of Air Marshal Abubakar’s Command Philosophy which include: optimizing Force Structure and Establishment for enhanced operational effectiveness, deliberate training and mission-oriented force development, proactive logistics support and strong maintenance culture, prioritizing R and D leveraging cutting-edge technology, strategic partnerships and lessons leant and maintaining a highly motivated force by enhancing welfare and infrastructural renewal.

His suitability as the 22nd CAS has not only been commended locally but was recognized internationally, thereby affirming the saying "a round peg in a round hole." His expertise has drawn interest globally, evident from his speaking engagement at the Future Air Force 2023 Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, on September 14, 2023. During this event, he presented an analysis of the current pilot training system and challenges within the Nigerian Air Force, much to the delight of his audience.

Hence, it's undeniable that the appointment of Air Marshal Abubakar who is devoted to enhancing the welfare of its personnel has significantly bolstered counterinsurgency efforts in Nigeria. Now, the NAF is well-equipped to overcome previous airpower challenges that plagued the Nigerian state thereby not only renewing the NAF towards the attainment of its constitutional mandate but also contributing immensely to the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration.

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