The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has intensified aerial patrol over the Sambisa Forest in a renewed effort to deny Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) who might have escaped the latest onslaught against the insurgents from regrouping.
The over 60,000 km forest is being painstakingly patrolled day and night by NAF Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to deny the fleeing insurgents the opportunity to regroup and launch attack against host communities and own surface troops on clearance operation.
The NAF has also acquired two Mi-35M attack helicopter to fight terrorists and criminal gangs.
The Mi-35M, the newest in the gunship family, is a rugged helicopter that offers round the clock combat use of guided and unguided weapons in regular and challenging climate conditions which is equipped with the latest navigation suite, target sights system, laser range finder and location finder.
This was disclosed on Friday by the Director of Operations at NAF HQ, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao at a media briefing in Abuja.
Similarly, the NAF has deployed ISR platforms for surveillance activities over Samaru, Katab, Zonkwa, Kafanchan and other troubled areas in Southern part of Kaduna State including the Kaduna metropolis.
The ongoing air operations is aimed at supporting the Surface Forces as well as restoring confidence in the people living in the affected areas while at the same time seeking out the hideouts used by criminal elements and armed bandits within the troubled areas.
Aside employing air power to flush out the bandits the NAF also relays the intelligence gathered from its ISR operations to land forces to aid the conduct of the entire operations.
At the media briefing hosted by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar to highlight major activities last year, AVM Amao said that the achievements of NAF in 2016 covered improvement in platforms and operational capabilities, infrastructural development, training and professionalism.
He said “some of the major achievements of the NAF from January to December 2016 include the Acquisition of 2x Mi-35M helicopter with capabilities for night operations.
“Acquisition of additional 2 new DA-40; reactivation of ATR-42 NAF 931; acquisition of Alpha-Jet NAF 478 in addition to the operable 7 Alpha-Jet aircraft fleet; induction of Super Mushshak ac (SMK) into the NAF inventory as a primary trainer; and induction of 3x EC-135 helicopters handed over to the NAF by NNPC in Mar 2016”
Amao disclosed that NAF provided most of the surveillance and intelligence activities towards the success of the counter-insurgency campaigns in the North-East and other special missions in the country.
He stated that “in the year 2016, 62 per cent of Intelligence missions were conducted not only to determine the location of abducted Nigerians but to also provide battle field situational awareness for the land forces. “
Continuing, AVM Amao said that many liaison/logistics and re-supply sorties were flown to move large volume of materials in support of the Land Component’s advance into Sambisa.
“These include ammunition, water, tyres and other stores to staging areas in support of Op Crackdown.
He said that “Logistics resupply and ISR missions aimed at dislodging the BHTs from their enclaves were further conducted in sustenance of the offensive operations on the ground. Additionally, Medical Evacuation and CASEVAC were conducted in support of the surface forces.
“In the beginning of Jun 2016, the Air Component’s efforts were geared towards consolidating the successes achieved during Nigerian Army Operation Crackdown. Considerable number of AR and some AI, CAS and CAP sorties were flown to further degrade BHTs capabilities. These missions were conducted in Northern Borno and the Sambisa general area.”