Nigerian Army kicks off aviation unit with 2 helicopters

army aviation

Nigerian Army officers and the two helicopters

By Sumaila Ogbaje

The Nigerian Army on Thursday took delivery of two new Bell UH1 Helicopters to herald the commencement of its aviation unit and boost the operational capabilities of the army in its counter-insurgency operations.

Speaking while inspecting the two helicopters at the Nigeria Police Air wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja said the journey to realising the dream of army aviation had come to reality with the delivery of the two platforms.

He recalled that the renewed drive to have an aviation wing started in 2014 when the former COAS, retired Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah, established and operationalised the Army aviation coordination office with a 10-year implementation plan segmented into three phases.

“I am glad that, as conceptualised 10 years later, we have today, taken delivery of our first set of platforms.

“The journey, as predicted by the initial dreamers, has not been easy but here we are today by the grace of God, realising our dream.

“We are new to this business, and as newcomers, we must acknowledge our forerunners like the NAF, NN, and the NPF.

“We are on our learning curve in the aviation business, and we hope it will be a pleasant experience that will enhance our operational successes,” he said.

Lagbaja said the new helicopters would be a game-changer for the army in its operational activities, adding that the platforms would be used for casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and surveillance.

He said new platform would ensure flexibility in providing support to troops in the field in terms of casualty evacuation, supply and insertion of troops in critical areas.

The Coordinator of Nigerian Army Aviation, Brig.-Gen. Musa Alkali, said the introduction of the advanced air platforms marked a new chapter in army’s operational readiness and ability to respond swiftly and effectively to diverse security challenges.

Alkali said the platforms were not just an addition to army fleet but a leap forward in its quest for excellence and efficiency toward getting its aviation unit operational.

He said the journey had been defined by rigorous planning, meticulous execution, and unwavering support of the Nigerian army leadership and partners.

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According to him, the acquisition of these air platforms is a clear demonstration of our resolve to continuously improve and adapt in the face of evolving security landscapes.

“These platforms will significantly bolster the reconnaissance, surveillance, and air mobility capabilities, thereby enhancing our overall operational effectiveness.

“As we integrate these platforms into our operations, let us also remember that the true strength of our aviation lies in the skilled and courageous personnel who operate and maintain these machines.

“Their professionalism, dedication, and expertise are the bedrock upon which our success is built,” he said.

The Consultant, retired Maj.-Gen. Emeka Onwuamaegbu, commended the leadership of the Nigerian army for making the aviation unit a reality.

He said the Nigerian army invested in him so much to become an aviation professional but could not render the service to the army because of the absence of aviation unit until his retirement.

“The army invested so much in me in this aspect of military operations but unfortunately, I didn’t use those skills when I was in service.

“It was a great pleasure a few months ago when I heard that the Nigerian army was about to operationalise the aviation corps, and I met the Chief of Army Staff, and he trusted me to be involved.

“These platforms will form the foundation for the growth of the Nigerian army,” he said.

NAN reports that the COAS had in 2023, disclosed that President Bola Tinubu, had approved acquisition of the initial 12 MD 530F Cayuse Attack Helicopters for actualisation of army aviation.

He said the acquisition of the new attack helicopters was part of ongoing efforts by the Federal Government to boost operational capabilities of the army aviation to appropriately respond to contemporary and emerging security threats.

The attack helicopters are still being expected.

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