Empowering Local Innovation: NAF Boosts Indigenous Repair Capabilities, Holds 2024 Inter Command Research and Development Exhibition/Competition

By Olayemi Esan

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hasan Abubakar has emphasized the need to develop indigenous capacity for innovation and development of products that can effectively support NAF operations if we must fulfil our mandate. 

This according to Air Chief is the critical place R&D occupies.

Air Marshal Abubakar stated this at this while declaring the Year 2024 Inter Command Research and Development Exhibition/Competition open which is one of the critical events holding during the Year 2024 NAF Day Celebrations with the theme “Leveraging Strategic Partnerships in Aerospace Innovations for Regional Security”. 

This theme is carefully selected taking into cognizance NAF experiences in terms of equipment acquisition, particularly the challenges being encountered in procuring aircraft spares and weapons for prosecution of the war against terrorism and banditry in the country. 

Therefore, it has become necessary for the NAF to provide some of her defence equipment and system needs through innovative knowledge and skills aimed at sustaining NAF operations across the country

The Air Chief who was the Special Guest of Honour said having served as COSE, he can allude to the critical place of R&D in enhancing NAF operational effectiveness, hence it is captured as the fourth key enabler of my command philosophy.

The Air Chief optimistic that most of the products exhibited will make practical contribution to NAF operational effectiveness

He noted that it is a common knowledge that the NAF utilizes sophisticated platforms, weapons and equipment to achieve its operational mandate.

"Major repairs and overhaul of these platforms, weapons and equipment are mostly carried out overseas by the Original Equipment Manufacturers at a very exorbitant cost. 

"Moreover, most spares and equipment are non-off the shelf items, therefore there is no guarantee of obtaining them when required. Meanwhile, the enemy does not wait for us to be ready since our difficulty is to his advantage. 

"Let me take you through the memory lane of some of our experiences as a Service. The NAF acquired 18 Jaguar aircraft in 1984. By 1991 (7 years after), the entire fleet had been retired from service with some of the aircraft having as low as 150hrs as total flown hours. 

"The same challenge trailed the operation of the MiG 21 aircraft. A total of 31 aircraft were acquired by 1975 and retired in the late 1980s with total flown hours ranging between 43hrs – 469hrs. This early retirement of the platforms indicates the inability of the NAF to sustain their operations due to lack of technical capacity. 

"Similar challenges are also experienced in maintaining aircraft weapons and other critical equipment in the NAF. It is only by developing indigenous capacity to maintain our platforms by ourselves or produce them that we can overcome the challenges posed by the present restrictions. This again emphasizes the critical place of R&D in NAF operations.

"Among the Services, the NAF has prided itself as a pace setter in the R&D. From the Tsai Gumi UAV to development of rocket launchers, heat shields, weaponization of Alpha Jet aircraft, retrofitting of U/S rockets, production of blank firing adapters for CAK-103 among others. 

"These feats have in no mean way ensured that our platforms and equipment were serviceable and deployed at the various theatres of operation. In recognition of the vital place of R&D, I approved the installation of 8 assorted CNC machines at the AFRDC Osogbo. 

"Furthermore the contract for the operationalization of Tsai Gumi UAV with UA Vision of Portugal was recently signed. The activation of the contract will see the resumption of partnership on the Tsai UAV project up to operational stage."he revealed

On the aspect of aircraft armament, the NAF according to Air Chief is at the verge of signing technology transfer agreement with Messrs Zenith Prom of Serbia on technology transfer of 57mm rocket. These efforts are geared towards prioritizing R&D, leveraging cutting edge technology, strategic partnership and lessons learnt in line with my command philosophy.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chief of Standard and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal MN Onyebashi said Nigerian Air Force being a technology driven organization places a high premium on Research & Development (R&D).

The objective of this competition is to showcase each Command’s innovative idea towards finding solution to operational, maintenance and other service related problems in the NAF. The Competition/Exhibition is part of the activities marking the Sixtieth Anniversary celebration of the NAF.

He noted that 6 Commands participated in this competition and represented by 3 units each with the best R&D projects. Also, AFRDB and AFIT are also having their projects on display here today. 

AVM Onyebashi appreciated participating commands and units for committing their resources to come up with these projects, despite their other competing demands. It is a true display of the much cherished culture of hard work, sacrifice and creativity. 

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