By Philip Nwosu

 

•Parade mounted by Nigerian Air Force officers and men during the parade in Kaduna

 

The skies over Kaduna were ablaze with colour and excitement recently  as the Nigerian Air Force celebrated its 60th anniversary with a spectacular ceremonial parade and airshow. The event, following the successful conclusion of the African Air Force Forum, showcased the precision, skill and aviation excellence of the Nigerian Air Force.

 

•The Vice President, Ibrahim Shettima being received by Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar

 

The celebrations commenced with the arrival of the chief celebrant of the day,  Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, followed by other service chiefs and dignitaries, setting the stage for extraordinary displays and commemorations.

 

•L-R: Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, during the ceremony

 

The ceremonial parade was a magnificent showcase of discipline and coordination, demonstrating the high standards and professionalism of the Nigerian Air Force. The aerial display that followed left the audience in awe, with various aircraft performing breathtaking maneuvers, highlighting the prowess and capabilities of Nigeria’s airmen and women.

 

•Members of the Nigerian Air Force Officers’ Wives Association during the ceremony

 

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was represented by the Vice President Kashim Shettima,  reiterated his administration’s resolve to prioritise issues of security and welfare of the armed forces, insisting that his government would invest more in state-of-the-art aircraft and equipment to combat insecurity in Nigeria.

Tinubu hailed the NAF’s six decades of service, sacrifice and patriotism, adding that the government would continue to stand with the armed forces through challenges, triumphs and grief, not as repayment but as an assurance of the nation’s unwavering support.

•Members of Defence Attachee of Asian countries during the event

 

He said:  “I bear with me today the gratitude of a nation that has watched your transformation into a formidable and resilient organisation, vigilant of the dynamics and complexities of security threats within and outside our borders for this long.”

While praising the critical role played by the Nigerian Air Force in maintaining regional and sub-regional peace and security, the President expressed pride in the institution’s formidable and resilient transformation over the years.

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He congratulated the Chief of the Air Staff, officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff for sustaining the culture of service on the diamond jubilee anniversary and reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to prioritising security as development cannot be guaranteed without a secure nation.

“In my inaugural address a year ago, I noted that security would be the top priority of my administration because we can never guarantee the development we have proposed unless each part of this great nation is secure. This is why we have continued to support the modernization efforts of our armed forces to address national and sub-regional security challenges,” he said.

To address national and sub-regional security challenges, Tinubu disclosed his administration’s substantial investments in procuring state-of-the-art multi-role combat aircraft, attack helicopters, sensors, and equipment to enhance the Nigerian Air Force’s capabilities.

These acquisitions, including Beechcraft King Air 360 aircraft, Diamond 62 surveillance aircraft, T-129 ATAK helicopters, Agusta 109 Trekker multi-role helicopters, and M-346 attack aircraft, aim to boost the nation’s combat and airlift capabilities.

The President called for a whole-of-society approach to tackling Nigeria’s security challenges, even as he acknowledged the socio-economic factors contributing to security challenges.

He expressed confidence in the country’s eventual sound economic rebound, adding, “We are confident that this temporary sacrifice will come to an end soon, and the country will be on the sound economic footing we have promised the nation.”

Tinubu paid tribute to the surviving members of the first set of pioneer NAF personnel, veterans, and fallen comrades, acknowledging their bravery, commitment, and service to the nation.

Aligning with the event’s theme, “Nigerian Air Force at 60: Leveraging Strategic Partnerships in Aerospace Innovations for Regional Security,” the President welcomed the participation of various partners and air forces from around the world, particularly from Africa.

He stressed the need for collaboration and developing partnerships with friends and allies to collectively address shared threats in the sub-region and beyond.

Earlier, a representative of Courses 37 and 38 of the Nigerian Air Force who retired from the Force recently, Air Vice Marshall Charles Ohwo, recalled “with nostalgia, the moment they were enrolled into the Airforce about 38 years ago.”

He noted that, seeing the journey from then, he could not help but thank God, adding that many of them had gone unceremoniously from the service.

He said while the journey was not devoid of challenges, they are grateful to the officers who encouraged them, especially the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of the Air Staff.

He also thanked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Tinubu, and everyone who helped them succeed while in the service.

Highlights of the occasion were a series of air displays and the presentation of prizes and awards to deserving officers.

Awards were presented to distinguished personnel in recognition of their outstanding service and contributions to the Air Force. Speeches reflected on the rich history and achievements of the Nigerian Air Force over the past six decades.

The event concluded with group photographs, capturing the unity and pride of all participants, and a special refreshment session for the dignitaries. The day’s festivities ended with a flying-out parade, symbolizing the forward momentum and future aspirations of the Nigerian Air Force.

The 60th anniversary celebration not only honored the legacy of the Nigerian Air Force but also showcased its commitment to excellence and its strategic role in ensuring national and regional security. This memorable event has set a high benchmark for future celebrations and left an indelible mark on all who attended.

Notable attendees included former President of the Senate and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, Sen. Ahmed Lawan; House Committee on Air Force, Hon. Kabiru Alhassan Rurum; Minister of Defence, Alhaji Mohammed Badaru Abubakar; and Minister of State Defence, Alhaji Bello Matawalle. The event was graced by Chief of the Air Staff and chief host, Air Marshal Hasaan Abubakar; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla; Governor of Taraba State, Dr. Agbu Kefas; Emir of Zazzau, HRH Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli; Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Dr. Harkeem Baba-Ahmed; members of the Diplomatic Corps; and other senior government officials.

Earlier, following the huge success of the first two editions, the 3rd Africa Air Force Forum was organised as part of the NAF @ 60 celebration

The Forum which was hosted between May 23-25, 2024 and coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), honoring its history and accomplishments in safeguarding Nigeria’s sovereignty, ensuring national security, and contributing to peacekeeping missions both regionally and globally.

The forum  featured a series of events, including a conference and exhibition with the theme “Nigerian Air Force at 60: Leveraging Strategic Partnerships in Aerospace Innovations for Regional Security.” The highlighted  the continuous advancement of air force capabilities, technological innovations, and strategic developments that enhance Africa’s aerial defense and peacekeeping capabilities.

Keynote discussions and presentations emphasized the importance of unity and collaboration among African nations in leveraging airpower capabilities to promote stability and development of air forces across the continent.

The forum  serves as a regional platform for advancing air force capabilities and building bilateral partnerships.

The agenda covers a variety of topics, including the prospects of air power in Africa, its impact on internal security operations, the role of air forces in counter-terror operations, and showcasing key technological capabilities required to optimize missions.

Attendees include Africa’s key air force chiefs, top leadership, international and regional industry experts, and government officials. The forum explores avenues for strengthening airpower capacities, fostering cooperation, and addressing common security challenges for the betterment of the entire African region.

This milestone event stands as a tribute to the commitment of the Nigerian Air Force and its strategic role in ensuring national and regional security. The forum is expected to set a high benchmark for future engagements, fostering greater cooperation and innovation in aerospace and defense across Africa.


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