By: Air Commodore TO Yusuf-Air Component Commander.
1.Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press. I am pleased to welcome you to the Headquarters of the Air Component, OP LAFIYA DOLE. I am Air Commodore TO Yusuf, the Air Component Commander. In line with the Air Component’s practice of keeping the public abreast with Nigerian Air Force activities in the North East through the Air Component OP LAFIYA DOLE, I will be updating you today on the air operations conducted by the Air Component within the third quarter of the year.
2.The Air Component OP LAFIYA DOLE has been steadfast in playing its role in support of concerted efforts by the Armed Forces of Nigeria to end the activities of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in the North East. The main thrust of these efforts has been to sustain the conduct of a range of day and night air operations, both independently and in support of activities of the Theatre Command, Multi National Joint Task Force and other partners. By swiftly adapting to changes in the operational situation in the Theatre and by drawing from lessons learnt in previous quarters, the Air Component continues to predicate its air operation in the Theatre on the strategic guidance of Search, Locate and Destroy. This involves conducting intensive missions with the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to monitor and collect information over the entire Theatre and using the appropriate aircraft to interdict legitimate BHT targets.
3.Within the quarter under review, the Air Component has conducted a range of air operations to degrade Boko Haram Terrorist’s combat capacity and inflict considerable damage on their assets. This has continued to limit the Sect’s capacity to execute significant attacks against own surface forces and the civilian populace. Nevertheless, own ISR platforms occasionally sight pockets of Boko Haram Terrorists in some identified locations within the Theatre of Operation, necessitating offensive actions. Unfortunately, despite ongoing offensive air operations, the prevailing weather condition has created some environmental impediments to own forces. The situation has promoted the activities of BHTs in those areas, as revealed by own ISR sightings. This, no doubt, necessitated an intensive air bombardment of identified locations to decimate the terrorists and further facilitate movement by ground forces. In view of these activities, I will be presenting an appraisal of NAF Operations in the Theatre from July-September 2017, in order to acquaint you with the current situation, the Air Component’s current efforts and future plans.
4.The aim of this brief therefore, is to acquaint you with NAF Operations in the North East during Third Quarter 2017.
5.In order to achieve this aim, I shall give an overview of operational activities in the third quarter of the year and a few notable activities, highlighting the nature of support rendered to surface forces. I will then give highlights of operational achievements recorded during the period under review. Thereafter, the challenges encountered in the course of executing our mandate will be mentioned, before highlighting our projections for future operations.
OVERVIEW OF IN-THEATRE ACTIVITIES FOR THIRD QUARTER 2017
6.Our air operations for the third quarter of 2017 was focused on sustaining the disruption of the activities of BHTs hidden within the entire Theatre, towards creating freedom of action for own troops on clearance operations. The aim was to ensure that surface forces are well positioned to carry out the eventual defeat of the Sect members in all their hideouts. This was based on information from ISR platforms, supported by both human intelligence and information from sister agencies on the Sect’s activities and efforts to recruit suicide bombers and fighters in some areas of Borno State. The Sect’s activities were reportedly prominent in and around the fringes of Sambisa forest, particularly in Parisu, Garin Maloma and Njimia, as well as around Buk, Mungusum, Dusala and Ajingin amongst others. Incidentally, the insurgents also used these locations as staging posts for attacks on neighbouring communities and logistics route, while in search of food and other supplies. Instances of such attacks occurred in the northern part of Adamawa State between 1 and 2 Aug 17, when the villages in Madagali LGA were attacked.
7.Furthermore, offensive actions were conducted against insurgents in parts of the Lake Chad Region and along the Green Belt region, in support of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF). Thus, in the Third Quarter of 2017, the Air Component justifiably re-directed significant air efforts to locations in and around the Sambisa region, while sustaining air operations in support of the MNJTF in Northern Borno. Simultaneously, the Air Component stepped up surveillance activities over major cities and towns in Borno and Adamawa states towards forestalling BHT attacks.
8.Highlight of Operations in Support of the Theatre Command. Within the period under review, the Air Component carried out air operations in support of Theatre Command’s conduct of clearance operations. ISR and AR operations were conducted to support troops of 21, 25, 26, 28 Brigades, Armed Forces Special Forces (AFSF) and Army HQ Strike Group. For instance, the Air Component conducted several AR and ISR missions from 16 Aug 17 around Limankara, Tagoshe Hills and environs in support of troops’ clearance operations. This was followed by a similar operation, West of Magumeri and South of Bornu Yessu on 23 Aug 17, in sp of tps on clearance operations. On 30 Aug 2017, ISR was conducted overhead Zari, Ladanti and Danamari in support of own troops on fighting patrol. In the same vein, another mission was conducted on 19 Sep 17 ISR over Gashigar, Damasak and Malam Fatori in sp of own tps on clearance ops towards Giri and its environs. Between 8 and 24 Aug 17 as well as 8 Sep and 20 Sep 17, the Air Component also provided series of BDA missions to guide NA artillery fire over parts of SAMBISA general area, including Parisu, Frigi, Sambisa S, Lagara, Mungusum, Abagajiri, Buk and Garin Maloma. A footage of one of such missions conducted over Garin Maloma on 20 Sep 17 is as shown. Through these missions the NA was able to better guide its fire onto the intended targets, which reportedly led to further decimation of BHT logistics and command structure.
9.Highlights of Independent Operations Conducted. During the period under review, the Air Component conducted several independent operations. The operations were a combination of several ISR, logistics, liaison and combat missions, ultimately aimed at decimating Boko Haram Terrorist’s infrastructure. One of the significant air interdiction missions, would be mentioned for emphasis. During a routine ISR mission over PARISU on 8 Aug 17, a large group of BHTs was seen converging under a tree close to a prominent zinc-roofed structure. Part of the structure happened to be concealed by the foliage of a tree, making it a seemingly unobtrusive gathering point for the terrorists. Later on, air strikes were conducted on the target after it was again observed to be holding a large number of terrorists. Four fighter jets (one F-7Ni and 3 A-Jets) were detailed to strike the target in succession. The first 2 strikes completely destroyed the building while the third aircraft strafed some fleeing insurgents. A BDA footage of the strike is as shown. After the third strike, the building was completely reduced to rubble, hence the fourth attack was re-directed to a close by building, where BHT activity was also noticed. Battle Damage Assessment of the attack indicated significant damage inflicted on the BHTs, as some of them were seen evacuating the casualties. Several other AI missions were conducted within the review period, some of which were conducted on 3 Jul in Alagarno Camp 1, 28 Jul 17 in Tumbun Rago, 19 Aug 17 in Talala, on 25 Aug 17 Abaganaram and Tumbun Rago on 30 Sep 17. Perhaps, most significant are the intensive air bombardment operations conducted by the Air Component during the quarter. These are the 3-day air bombardment conducted from 12 to 14 August and OP RUWAN WUTA conducted from 7 to 16 Sep 17. These would be discussed briefly.
a.Three-Day Bombardment. In view of the fact that analysis of ISR footages in July 2017 revealed reasonable BHT activities in SAMBISA, PARISU and ALAFA, the Air Component, at the instance of the CAS, conducted a 3-day bombardment of targets within the identified locations. During the 3-day bombardment, conducted from 12 – 14 Aug 17, a total of 33 sorties were flown with a total time of 42 hours 40 minutes. It was during this operation, which was supported by NA Artillery fire, that some key BHT leaders were killed.
b.OP RUWAN WUTA. From 7 to 16 Sep 17, the Air Component conducted a 10-day intensive day and night bombardment of locations in Borno State, where BHT activities were observed. The objective of the Op was to ‘rain significant fire’ on BHT hideouts thereby further degrading the terrorists’ ability to freely operate and consequently giving advantage to friendly surface forces. Accordingly, several targets were successfully attacked, with significant damage on the BHTs. The locations include Parisu, Njimia, Zanari, Garin Maloma, Yale Market, Mungusum, Arra and Kote. A comprehensive BDA over the attacked locations after the 10-day Operation revealed the complete absence of BHT activities. During OP RUWAN WUTA, the Air Component conducted a total of 129 missions in 180 sorties, within a total of 208 hrs 16 mins. It is pertinent to note that from the data, AI and ISR missions represented 39% and 20.5%, respectively of the total sorties conducted during the operation, while the remaining 40.5% were for AR/AE, CAS, CASEVAC, Tactical airlift and other auxiliary sorties. In terms of logistics expenditure, a total of 241,728 ltrs of Jet A1 fuel and 30 ltrs of MOGAS were utilized by the various participating platforms.
HIGHLIGHTS OF OPERATIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS IN THIRD QUARTER 2017
10.The aircraft types presently in the Theatre are shown on the screen. During the Quarter, the L-39ZA ac was rerolled from time to time to boost our offensive capability. Accordingly, based on the current situation in our area of responsibility, the Air Component conducted the following air missions in Third Quarter 2017:
a.Air Interdiction.A total of 202 air interdiction missions were conducted by the F-7Ni, A-jets, L-39ZA, Mi-17 and the Mi-35M to neutralize Boko Haram Terrorist targets within the Theatre, during the third quarter of 2017. This figure, is almost double the 108 AI sorties executed in the previous quarter, due to the intensive AI operations that the Air Component conducted within the review period as observed by the increased activity as well as independent operations conducted during the period.
b.Close Air Support. A total of 9 Close Air Support missions were conducted during the Quarter by the Air Component, utilizing the F-7Ni, A-Jet and MI-35M Hel. This is much less than the 27 sorties conducted in the previous quarter. The significant drop in Close Air Support missions is indicative of the fact that the ground forces had less contact with BHTs than recorded in the second quarter. This implies that the insurgents’ capability to wage significant offensive against own troops has been largely curtailed, ostensibly, due to significant pressure exerted by the Air Component’s AI operations.
c.Armed Recce/Armed Escort.Armed Recce (AR) missions were conducted extensively to locate and engage opportunity targets, while Armed Escort (AE) missions were conducted to escort own platforms transiting through vulnerable areas. At the end of Third Quarter 2017, the F-7Ni, A-Jet and the Mi-35M conducted a total of 173 Armed Recce/Armed Escort sorties. This is more than 129 Armed Recce/Armed Escort sorties conducted in the second quarter of 2017, largely due to the intensive air operations conducted during the quarter under review.
d.Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance. The BE-350KA and CH-3A were used to conduct ISR over the Theatre. A total of 226 ISR sorties were undertaken by these platforms in Third Quarter 2017. This is more than the 192 ISR sorties conducted in the second quarter, largely due to the extensive ISR missions conducted preparatory to the intensive AI missions. It is pertinent to note that the increased ISR sorties was achieved in spite of several flight disruptions due to the rains. The rainy season was also associated with considerable cloud cover, which made it difficult to acquire targets with own airborne cameras.
e.Casualty Evacuation/Medical Evacuation. Casualty Evacuation/Medical Evacuation. Casualty Evacuation and Medical Evacuation missions were conducted using the Mi-17, A109LUH and EC-135. These missions continue to help improve the survival rates of Wounded in Action (WIA) and sick troops, thereby positively impacting on the morale of the fighting troops. A total of 22 sorties were conducted in the Third Quarter of 2017 as against 21 sorties conducted in the Second Quarter. In spite of the fact that there was a high reduction in the evacuation of own troops, the marginal increase in these missions was primarily due to the medical evacuations conducted for IDPs, who were treated during the Air Component’s medical outreach programmes within the period under review. To this end, the Air Component will continually strife to create favourable conditions to reduce the need for Casualty Evacuation of own troops, while increasing such Medical Evacuation missions in order to touch the lives of the innocent citizens in need of medical attention.
f.Tactical Airlift.Troop movement and logistics re-supply missions were effectively provided by the Mi-17, EC-135 and the Agusta-109LUH, in support of own and ground forces’ operations. On the whole, a total of 167 sorties were generated to airlift 714 personnel and resupply 9,410 Kg of logistics within the Theatre from July – September 2017. These figures recorded are significantly higher in terms of logistics airlifted with a similar number of troops airlifted, when compared with previously recorded figures of 146 sorties to airlift 550 personnel and re-supply 8,499 Kilogram of logistics recorded in the previous quarter. This is indicative of the Air Components efforts to intensify logistic re-supply in support of ongoing operations.
g.Combat Air Patrol Missions.Combat Air Patrol missions were conducted, using the Mi-35M and Agusta-109 LUH, to keep an eye on activities and potential threats in the outer and inner metropolis areas of Maiduguri and Yola. A total of 10 sorties were generated for combat air patrol missions in the Third Quarter 2017. These missions were very useful in providing assurances of secure perimeters in Yola and Maiduguri.
h.Ancillary Missions.Some ancillary missions were conducted in the Theatre such as training missions, Functional Check Flights, Staff Continuity Training, base defence simulation and ferry flights. A total of 353 sorties of ancillary missions were conducted from July – September 2017, which is much higher than the 151 sorties from the previous quarter.
11.As indicated on the screen, our air efforts in the third quarter of 2017 as compared to the previous quarter show an increase in activities based on the upsurge of day and night ISR and Armed Recce sorties to identify targets for Air Interdiction, while also conducting several missions in support of ground troops. Overall, from July to September 2017, a total of 842 missions were conducted in 1,162 sorties with a total of 1,551hours and 39 minutes flown by the various platforms. For all these sorties, a total of 1,596,165 litres of Jet-A1 was consumed, which translates to a fuel cost of N399,041,250, at the average rate of N250 per litre. Also, a total of 2,529 litres of MOGAS were consumed, with an equivalent cost of N1,492,110 at the rate of N590 per litre. This gives a total amount of N400,533,360 expended on fuel alone in about 90 days of operation.
12.The Air Component also recorded some non-operational achievements during the review period. Some of the notable ones include: airlift of government officials within the Theatre, Conduct of medical outreach programmes, deployment of NAF Special Forces to strategic parts of Maiduguri, establishment of 171 NAF Detachment Munguno, the expansion of the military apron at NAF Base Maiduguri and convoy protection for VIPs. During the Quarter, the Air Component also hosted a military delegation from Jordan, headed by the Commander of the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
a.Airlift of Government Officials within the Theatre. The Air Component conducted several liaison missions to airlift government officials within the Theatre of Operation. For instance, on 14 Jul 17, 3 staff of National Refugee Commission (NRC) were airlifted from Maiduguri to Banki and back, while 4 staff of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) were airlifted from Maiduguri to Banki and back on the same day. On 22 Jul 17, the EC-135 conveyed 5 members of the Presidential Committee on North-East from Maiduguri to Gulumba Gana and back and later conveying them to Buni Yadi and back to Maiduguri. On 5 Sep 17, the A109LUH conducted a liaison mission, airlifting the Executive Governor of Adamawa State and his entourage from Yola to Mubi and back.
b.Medical Outreach Programmes. During the medical outreach and surgery for internally displaced persons organized by the Nigerian Air Force which began on 8 Jul 17, a total of 201 patients were treated, out of which 68 cases were non-surgical medical treatments, while 133 were surgical interventions carried out in 18 days of the exercise. The successful airlift of the patients from the various IDP camps to and from Maiduguri, using the Air Component’s helicopters, greatly contributed to the overall success of the programme. Another medical outreach programme was conducted from 8 to 24 Sep 17, targeted at providing free medical treatment to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps near Maiduguri, the Sambisa general area and Rann, in particular. The NAF also conducted free surgeries for IDPs that needed surgical interventions, airlifting them, when necessary, to the NAF Medical Centre in Maiduguri. In all, free surgical interventions were carried out on 151 IDPs out of a total of 1,032 that were screened in all the beneficiary IDP camps. At the end of the programme the free surgical interventions included 89 eye surgeries and 62 general surgeries while 60 other IDPs received free medicated eyeglasses from the NAF.
c.Deployment of Special Forces to Strategic Parts of Maiduguri.On 15 July 2017, NAF Special Forces were deployed to Theatre Command as part of the AFSF, while 60 regt pers were deployed on 5 Aug 17 to UNIMAID and several strategic locations within Maiduguri metropolis. The NAF regiment of the Air Component took on the responsibility of manning some Vulnerable Points (VPs), within the city. These VPs, which were previously manned by the Nigeria Police and NA, also included areas within the University of Maiduguri. The NAF Special Forces personnel were deployed with the newly acquired thermal imagers, in a bid to ensuring maximum security within the locations.
d.Establishment of 171 NAF Detachment Munguno. In an effort to complement the efforts of ground troops in the ongoing counter insurgence operation, the current NAF leadership established the 171 NAF Detachment in Munguno, on 18 Aug 17. The establishment has, by implication, expanded the roles and contribution of the Air Component to also include ground operations, additional to the NAF Special Forces deployed in the North East. Befitting structures and facilities are currently being built to support operations in the Unit.
e.Expansion of the Maiduguri Military Apron.
In an effort to bolster the conduct of air operations by the Air Component, the current NAF authorities commenced the expansion of the Military apron at NAF Base Maiduguri on 24 Jul 17. The project which is ongoing, is expected to extend the apron to 11,550 square metres. It will also expand the aircraft parking capacity of the apron, which would also have state of the art facilities for improved ground handling of NAF aircraft during operations.
f.Convoy Protection for VIPs in-Theatre.
The Air Component carried out liaison and convoy protection missions for VIPs within the theatre. On 1 Aug 17, Air Component conveyed the COAS and his entourage from Yola to Maiduguri and later to Damaturu and back to Maiduguri. Additional to the liaison missions, the Air Component also conducted convoy protection missions.
For instance, on 6 Aug 17, the Mi-35M conducted AR in protection of the convoy of the HMOD and COAS from Damboa to Buni Yadi and back. Similarly, on 7 Aug 2017, ISR was conducted overhead Roads Buratai-Biu-Damboa-Maiduguri to protect the convoy of COAS and GOC enroute Maiduguri from Buratai. A similar mission was conducted on 8 Aug 2017 along Road Maiduguri – Bama to cover COAS convoy enroute Bama.
g.Hosting of the Royal Jordanian Air Force Delegation.
On 26 Sep 17, the Air Component hosted a military delegation from Jordan which was led by the Commander of the Royal Jordanian Air Force. The delegation visited and interacted with troops in Yola and Maiduguri with a view to obtaining a first-hand assessment of NAF’s counter insurgency efforts as well as identifying areas of possible collaboration with the NAF towards a successful execution of the fight against BH. The visit was successful and conducted without any hitch.
CHALLENGES TO THE CONDUCT OF AIR OPERATIONS
13.During the Third Quarter of 2017, the Air Component experienced few setbacks and challenges. Although efforts were put in place to, as much as possible, mitigate these challenges, one of them is still worthy of mention. Prevailing adverse weather constituted a single most prominent impediment to our air operations during the period. Occurring at its peak period within the season, thunderstorms and rainfall as well as its associated low clouds impacted negatively on most of our air missions, particularly in August and September 2017. Several ISR and AI missions were aborted due heavy clouds over the objectives while in some cases there were outright cancellations of flights for safety reasons. In spite of the several days of flight disruptions, the Air Component was able to maximize the few days of favourable weather conditions to conduct assigned missions, as is evident in the number of missions accomplished during the Quarter. It is expected that as the rains begin to subside, in the coming weeks, our rates of efforts would pick up again and the Air Component could considerably make up for the lost tempo in air operations.
PROJECTIONS FOR FUTURE OPERATIONS
14.During the conduct of OP RUWAN WUTA, air strikes were conducted on the insurgents in their identified hideouts. As a result, several of them were routed out of their hideouts during the OP. The physical destruction inflicted and psychological trauma exacted on the insurgents is believed to have curtailed their freedom of action and further degraded their capacity to effectively engage own troops. There are available intelligence regarding the destinations to which some of the routed insurgents had relocated. To this end the Air Component is poised to take the war to insurgents, regardless of where they run to. Hence we will continue to conduct regular ISR and AI missions on the insurgents in any new hideout they may have moved to.
15.In view of the current environmental/terrain impediment imposed on the ground troops due to the rains, we shall continue to carry out air strikes at the slightest indication of insurgents’ return to those locations. It is envisaged that in a few weeks from now, the adverse weather will let up considerably to allow ground operation to continue apace. To this end, the Sambisa area, and locations in northern Bornu, will still be our immediate focus for future operations, as intensive ISR and AI missions would be conducted to ensure that they are devoid of BHT activities.
16.The insurgents continue to exploit the weather situation and take advantage of the nature of the environment to achieve concealment of structures under the cover of trees, thereby enhancing their ability to evade easy detection by own ISR platforms. However, the painstaking efforts of own crew during ISR are yielding results in identifying critical hidden targets such as vehicles and structures. Hence, in the medium term, our strategy is to
a.Sustain the conduct of day and night ISR and other offensive air operations in the Theatre until the insurgents are defeated.
b.Vigorously pursue the employment of other sources of intelligence gathering to augment products from our ISR efforts.
c.Intensify aerial operations in support of the ground forces in the general ops area.
d.Continue the support of humanitarian/medical outreach programmes in the various Internally Displaced Person Camps, with a view to winning the heart and minds of the civil populace.
17.It is expected that all these efforts will contribute to the overall effort to clear BHTs from their camps and hideouts, enable ground troops dominate the entire North East and restore normalcy and better the lives of innocent citizens in the North East.
18.Within the period under review, the Air Component actively supported the Theatre Comd in continuation of the latter’s clearance operations artillery strikes. This was additional to several independent operations to shape the environment for ground troops to operate effectively. These were executed through the provision of extensive Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance cover and air strikes against identified legitimate targets.
19.In addition to supporting the ground forces, the Air Component conducted independent air operations in areas of observed insurgents’ activities. Of particular note was Op RUWAN WUTA which was assessed to have achieved its objective of “‘raining significant fire” on BHTs in their concealed hideouts, as a result of which they were unable to operate freely. This was judging by the number of insurgents that were killed and the survivors that were routed out of their hideouts during the OP. The physical destruction inflicted and psychological trauma exacted on the insurgents curtailed their freedom of action and further degraded their capacity to effectively engage own troops.
20.The Air Component also recorded other achievements, including several successful airlift missions for government officials as well as the deployment of NAF Special Forces to strategic locations in Maiduguri and the establishment of 171 NAF Detachment Munguno. Notwithstanding the current weather challenges, which inhibited the conduct of air operations and also provided more vegetation within which the insurgents concealed their activities, the Air Component aims to consolidate on the achievements so far recorded in the Third Quarter 2017. This it will do by conducting an intensive air bombardment on selected BHT targets with the aim of totally obliterating the insurgents in their hideouts within the Theatre of Operation.
21.On this note, our sincere gratitude goes to the Chief of the Air Staff for the unwavering support to the Air Component in order to make these achievements possible. On our part we are always willing, able and ready to carry out any additional tasks. Thank you and God bless.