In order to enhance its operational effectiveness, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has taken over three l-39ZA albatross aircraft, which were reactivated in-country by Aerovodochody, the original manufacturers of the aircraft.
The reactivation was carried out in Nigeria by Messrs Aerovodochody of Czech Republic, assisted by NAF engineers and technicians.
Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, the Director of Public Relations and Information explained that the reactivation will ensure that the NAF increases the number of fighter pilots available to man its existing fighter jets as well as the new platforms, such as the A-29 Super Tucano and JF-17 Thunder Multi-Role Fighter, which are to be inducted into NAF inventory soon.
The three L-39 Albatross aircraft were handed over on the 21 June 2019, at the NAF 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS), Kano. The Czech Republic Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Marek Skolil, was in attendance.
During the handover ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, while making his remarks, explained that the handing over of the 3 reactivated aircraft marked another milestone in NAF’s efforts to ensure that 403 FTS continues to operate optimally.
Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar also noted that the in-country reactivation of the aircraft was also done in pursuit of the overall objective to domicile all maintenance and training activities locally, thereby resulting in huge foreign exchange savings which could be channelled towards providing other facilities.
The CAS emphasized that the Service, having recognized the fact that conducive atmosphere was key to ensuring that students derive maximum benefit from training institutions, had renovated and equipped classrooms; upgraded and re-equipped the map room and provided a new Computer-Based Training (CBT) Laboratory to supplement and enhance the training efforts of 403 FTS.
According to Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), “the Service is looking forward to sustaining the good working relationship that has been re-established as well as having a long and fruitful partnership that is beneficial to the 2 countries. It is also my belief that we will reach a reasonable conclusion on plans to overhaul an additional 6 x L-39ZA aircraft”, he added.
The CAS thanked the Nigerian government for providing the funds for the NAF to acquire new platforms such as the A-29 Super Tucano, JF-17 aircraft as well as additional Mi-35M and Agusta A-109 Power helicopters.
In his remarks, the Czech Republic Ambassador traced the history of the long-standing cordial relationship between Nigeria and the Czech Republic since independence, especially the various contributions in terms of military-technical assistance, equipment and training. He especially noted the supply of the l-29 aircraft, which were used for training as well as combat operations during the Nigerian Civil War.
He noted that this paved the way for the acquisition of the l-39ZA, which has been used extensively by the NAF for training over the past 33 years and, more recently, for operations in the Northeast. Mr Skolil expressed his delight that Aerovodochody, which has been in the Aviation Industry for over 100 years, had completed the reactivation programme on time as well as to specification. He said the Company has continued to evolve with changing technologies and recently launched the first prototype of the latest version of the l-39, the l-39Next Generation (l-39NG), which would be available for acquisition by the NAF at a reduced cost since modernization elements in the existing l-39s would not be phased out with their airframes but transferred to the new l-39NG.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Commander 403 FTS, Air Commodore Nnamdi Ananaba, highlighted that the reactivation of the 3 aircraft had commenced a few months after the graduation ceremony of Basic Flying Course 18 (BFC – 18), when the school did not have enough aircraft to accommodate an increased demand for fighter pilot training occasioned by the need to meet aircrew requirements for newly acquired platforms. He lauded the CAS, who, he said, in a characteristic manner, declared a state of emergency and orchestrated the processes that led to the reactivation of the 3 l-39ZA aircraft, within record time, as well as the improvement of facilities in the school to accommodate a larger intake of students. At the end of the ceremony, an acceptance flight, which featured some aerobatic manoeuvres, was conducted on the newly reactivated aircraft.