Chief Of Air Staff Keynote Address At 9th Bola Tinubu Colloquium
NIGERIAN AIR FORCE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS TOWARDS SELF RELIANCE: ACHIEVEMENTS AND FUTURE DELIVERABLES
1. I consider it a privilege to have been invited to deliver a keynote address as a Special Guest at the 9th Bola Tinubu Colloquium. I therefore express my appreciation to the organisers of this event for this singular honour. I am particularly thrilled at the theme of this year’s event, which is “Make it in Nigeria: Use What We Make, Make What We Use”. I am thrilled because it affords me the opportunity to showcase how the Nigerian Air Force has been innovating locally to maintain its array of platforms, weapon systems and associated equipment. However, kindly spare me a few moments to first highlight the significance of air power over the course of history.
2. Right from 1903, when the Wright brothers conducted the first successful flights, air power has played decisive roles in combats. The first instance of the use of air power was during the War between Italy and the Ottoman Empire in 1911, when a young Italian pilot was ordered to throw grenades from his aircraft to strike enemy encampments. Other subsequent uses of air power in battle were the successful German Gotha bombing of London during World War 1 and the German Blitzkrieg operations of World War 2. The Luftwaffe demonstrated the doctrines of control of air and support to surface forces with so much efficiency that it stunned the opponents into submission. This must have spurred Winston Churchill to say then, “Not to have an adequate air force in the present state of the world is to compromise the foundations of national freedom and independence”. That statement still holds true until today.
3. More recently, in the Falklands War between Argentina and Great Britain in 1982, the decisive battle that determined the fate of the islands was fought in the air. Again, air power proved to be the most decisive factor that brought the Gulf War of 1991 to a speedy conclusion. The Gulf War lasted
for 43 days out of which the ground offensive took only 5 days, sequel to the successful air campaign mounted by the Coalition Forces against the Iraqi Forces. Furthermore, air power was fundamental to the enforcement of the no-fly zone established by the UN Security Council over Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992 during the Yugoslav War.
4. Back home, air power has also played decisive roles in bringing conflicts to speedy resolutions, right from the Nigerian Civil War, when the Nigerian Air Force was launched into battle barely 2 years after its establishment. Since then, the Nigerian Air Force has successfully used air power to project Nigeria’s interests during the Nigerian-Chadian Conflict of 1983 and the ECOMOG Operations in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. So impressed was the one time ECOMOG Field Commander, Gen Victor Malu, with the efficacy of air power that he stated “In any modern operation, you can never underrate the use of air power. You either have it or you don’t go into the operation”. We are all witnesses to the recent swift deployment of our troops to Gambia, which brought the political impasse in that country to a quick resolution. The swiftness of that deployment was only made possible by the availability of serviceable Nigerian Air Force air assets.
5. Nigeria faces several Internal Security challenges ranging from militancy in the South South, pipeline vandalism in the South West, cattle rustling in the North West and Boko Haram Terrorist insurgency in the North East. The Nigerian Air Force has successfully deployed its air assets in conjunction with ground troops to end or reduce some of these challenges. For instance, air operations conducted in Arepo by Nigerian Air Force platforms successfully ended pipeline vandalism in that area. Here is a clip showing the effect of one of the air attacks. In the North East also, the Nigerian Air Force has succeeded in using air power to decimate the Boko Haram Terrorists to a level that they no longer pose any significant threat to our daily lives. This clip shows a Nigerian Air Force F-7Ni aircraft attacking the Boko Haram Terrorists.
6. For the Nigerian Air Force platforms to remain operational, the timely delivery of parts at reasonable costs must be assured. However, the Nigerian Air Force is ordinarily compelled to rely mostly on foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers for the supply of the parts and usually at exorbitant prices. Besides, as a Service, we are well aware of the focus of the Federal Government in promoting local content, home grown technology and innovation as principal means of preserving the Nation’s foreign exchange earnings. Accordingly, the Nigerian Air Force currently places much emphasis on research and development, as a way of building indigenous technological capacity. It is against this backdrop that I will be speaking on: “Nigerian Air Force Research and Development Efforts Towards Self Reliance: Achievements and Future Deliverables”. We know that the effectiveness of the Nigerian Air Force, in the long term, largely depends on the extent of the growth of its home-based technology.
7. The aim of this paper is to highlight key dividends of the Nigerian Air Force Research and Development efforts.
8. In order to achieve this aim, the presentation will cover the following:
a. Foundation of indigenous Research and Development efforts in the Nigerian Air Force.
b. Some products of Nigerian Air Force Research and Development efforts.
c. Future deliverables.
FOUNDATION OF INDIGENOUS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS IN
THE NIGERIAN AIR FORCE
9. In the Nigerian Air Force, a key requirement for the fulfilment of our statutory mission of ensuring the integrity of Nigeria’s airspace is the availability of sufficient aircraft for air operations. The Nigerian Air Force therefore has different aircraft for different types of air operations. The pictures of some of these aircraft and their roles are shown on the screen. It is noteworthy that spares and components that are essential to the serviceability of aircraft are not usually manufactured in Nigeria. It was thus the norm to source for all the required parts only from various overseas Original Equipment Manufacturers. Aside from the habitually exorbitant cost of importing these items, delivery was often delayed thereby resulting in prolonged downtime for our aircraft. It became obvious that the Nigerian Air Force had to innovate if it must continue to effectively and efficiently fulfil its role.
10. In realization of the foregoing, the foundation for innovative efforts in the Service was laid, when the Nigerian Air Force Research and Development Policy was formulated. Accordingly, all I had to do, on assumption of office, was to strengthen the Research and Development capacity of the Nigerian Air Force for large scale research activities.
11. In pursuit of this goal, we established the Air Force Research and Development Centre in October 2015 for basic and applied aerospace Research and Development. The Centre was to undertake other Nigerian Air Force strategic Research and Development commitments. Thereafter, all the officers who had undergone various postgraduate programmes in Aerospace Vehicle Design at different overseas universities as well as those talented officers in the area of Aerospace Research and Development were redeployed to the Air Force Research and Development Centre in Kaduna to form the nucleus of Nigerian Air Force research activities and they were given the necessary mandates. The Nigerian Air Force also introduced Inter-Command Research and Development Competition.
12. Another step taken by the Nigerian Air Force was to sign Memoranda of Understanding with 22 selected Nigerian universities and research institutes. This was in consonance with one of the key drivers of my vision, which is employing “strategic partnership with Ministries, Departments and Agencies for enhanced Research and Development”. The other key driver that is germane to this presentation is “Reinforce a culture of self-reliance and prudent management of resources”. Sequel to the successful signing of the Memoranda of Understanding, various Research and Development cells, comprising resource persons from the selected tertiary institutions and Nigerian Air Force personnel, were then formed. The cells were assigned the tasks of addressing different aircraft and related maintenance challenges, based on identified competencies.
13. Our experience, so far, has shown that there are highly talented resource persons in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. The sustenance of these successful partnerships with these institutions has had and would continue to have positive impact on aircraft serviceability in the Nigerian Air Force. This would, in turn, enhance our ability to project air power towards contributing not only to the resolution of Nigeria’s current Internal Security challenges but security challenges within the West African Sub-region. Apparently, what Nigeria needs is to successfully harness her rich human resource, appropriately motivate them and mandate them to come up with the desired results.
SOME PRODUCTS OF NIGERIAN AIR FORCE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS
14. The Research and Development efforts of the Nigerian Air Force, in partnership with various tertiary institutions and other local organizations, have resulted in notable breakthroughs. I shall only discuss some of the significant breakthroughs in this presentation due to time limitation.
First breakthrough has to do with the
PRODUCTION OF HYDRAULIC ACCUMULATOR DIAPHRAGM FOR MI-35 HELICOPTERS
15. The hydraulic accumulator diaphragm is a very important component of the Mi-35 helicopter, which is one of the main platforms being employed in the Northeast. Aside from being very expensive, the diaphragm requires frequent replacements to assure safe conduct of flying operations. Often times, Mi-35 helicopters become grounded due to faulty hydraulic accumulator diaphragms. Efforts made to procure the diaphragm from the manufacturers of the helicopter revealed that it was scarce to source and very expensive. The Nigerian Air Force eventually had to procure 6 diaphragms only at the cost of $106,000:00 USD. That situation led to the commencement of in-house research on the production of the diaphragm.
16. In the course of the research, the Nigerian Air Force collaborated with some mechanical and rubber technologies outfits in the country, resulting in the production of the first prototype. Ever since, the production has undergone many modifications and I am glad to announce that we have now produced a better version of the one from the Original Equipment Manufacturer at a cost of just twenty five thousand Naira. The Nigerian Air Force no longer imports the diaphragms and our Mi-35 helicopters are never grounded again on account of faulty diaphragms. Let me hasten to add that the successful production of the diaphragm, which has been patented in 2016, has the potential of impacting on the Nation’s economy. For instance, the local suppliers of the needed raw materials as well as the local manufacturing company are profiting from this venture.
Second breakthrough has to do with the
CHALLENGE OF INCOMPATIBILITY OF CAMERA AND MULTI FUNCTION DISPLAY ON AGUSTA 109 HELICOPTER
17. The Agusta 109 helicopter is frequently employed in the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance role in the Northeast and other theatres of operation. The helicopter’s camera and its Multi Function Display, which displays various aircraft parameters, were integrated by the Original Equipment Manufacturer. However, with time, a conflict arises between these systems with attendant adverse effect on operations.
18. The foreign firm, which was contacted to rectify the snag, submitted a bill of 158 Million Naira, an amount that the Nigerian Air Force considered as being prohibitive. Consequently, the Nigerian Air Force, looking inwards, set up a Research and Development Committee led by Air Vice Marshal I Bukar, to try and rectify the snag. The Committee was able to successfully separate the camera from the Multi Function Display while providing an additional monitor for the camera. Both of them now work independently without any operational hitches and 5 Million Naira only was spent to accomplish this feat as against the 158 Million Naira that was demanded by the foreign firm.
REPLACEMENT OF ELECTROLYTE IN BATTERY OF F-7NI FIGHTER AIRCRAFT
19. The F-7Ni aircraft is a fighter aircraft employed in deep interdiction role in the Northeast. Among the challenges faced in the operation of the aircraft was the maintenance of the Airborne Alkaline Batteries supplied by the Original Equipment Manufacturer. The battery had a service life of one year and shelf life of 2 years, making its durability very poor. The battery also required regular charging and topping of its electrolyte, which had to be procured from overseas. The impression given by the manufacturers was that the electrolyte had special additives and could neither be tampered with nor sourced locally. Meanwhile, the corrosive nature of the electrolyte made it difficult to import, as shippers were always reluctant to ship it thereby leading to increased aircraft downtimes.
20. To resolve the problem of electrolyte, which rendered most of the batteries un-useable, the Nigerian Air Force commissioned a Research and Development Team in collaboration with the Benue State University, Makurdi. The research team was able to successfully produce a replacement electrolyte for the F-7Ni aircraft batteries. It is gladdening to note that we do not import electrolyte for the
F-7Ni aircraft batteries again.
PRODUCTION OF ANTI-SKID TEST BENCH FOR ALPHA JET AIRCRAFT
21. For some time, the Nigerian Air Force had been experiencing challenges on the anti-skid system of the Alpha Jet aircraft, which is another platform that is actively engaged in the counterinsurgency operations in the Northeast. The anti-skid system is connected with the braking system of the aircraft and would usually result in the grounding of the aircraft, if faulty. A major challenge, before now, with rectifying anti-skid related snags on the aircraft is the lack of a test bench. Ideally, test benches are used to confirm the functionality of a system that has been repaired prior to installation on the aircraft. However, the Nigerian Air Force was being compelled to test the anti-skid system in situ thereby sometimes inadvertently damaging other components on the aircraft.
22. Towards resolving the anti-skid related challenge on the Alpha Jet aircraft, the Nigerian Air Force collaborated with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Ahmadu Bello University and University of Maiduguri. Resource persons from these institutions alongside their Nigerian Air Force counterparts were able to design and produce a test bench for the Alpha Jet aircraft anti-skid system. Today, our challenges with the anti-skid system of the aircraft have become part of our history.
PRODUCTION OF BRAKE PADS AND RIVETS FOR ALPHA JET AIRCRAFT
23. There was a dearth of Alpha Jet aircraft brake assemblies owing to the closure of the production lines abroad. I then directed the Aircraft Engineering Branch to collaborate with indigenous brake manufacturers to seek a lasting and home-grown solution to the challenge. Eventually, the Nigerian Air Force partnered with the Innoson Group of Companies, which readily agreed to use the Company’s equipment to overhaul the Alpha Jet aircraft brake assemblies by using the MB-339 aircraft brake pads. A total of 8 brake assemblies were successfully overhauled through this process.
24. The Nigerian Air Force has since signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Messrs Innoson, which has invested in the production of brake pads and rivets needed to overhaul the Alpha Jet aircraft brakes. The company is now able to mass produce the needed Alpha Jet aircraft brakes. With this, we are sure of getting the required brakes at an affordable price, right quality and in a timely manner, having involved an indigenous company. The Nigerian Air Force and the company are already exploring the possibility of producing brakes for other aircraft types on the inventory of the Nigerian Air Force.
MANUFACTURING OF UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE
25. The modern trend in military aviation is the employment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in various missions. Not to be left behind, the Nigerian Air Force, through its “Optimising Local Engineering” initiative, was able to manufacture an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The prototype Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, named GULMA, was designed and developed for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Operations solely by Nigerian Air Force officers. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle produced, when fully operational, can remain airborne for 8-10 hours flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet and cruise speed of 55 knots which is about 102 km/hr.
WEAPONISATION OF COMBAT AIRCRAFT
26. Through indigenous efforts, the Nigerian Air Force has bolstered its Research and Development initiatives in the area of Armament Technology. These initiatives have led to major breakthroughs that have impacted positively on the Nigerian Air Force counterinsurgency operations in the Northeast. Notable among the efforts toward self-reliance in the field of armament are:
a. Weaponization of 3 x Alpha Jet aircraft whose weapon systems were reconfigured locally to carry not only the Western bloc rocket launchers but also Eastern bloc rocket launchers.
b. Weaponization of the 3 x EC-135 civil helicopters.
Another weaponization programme that was successful is shown on the screen.
Slide and test fire of armed and re-roled basic jet trainer L-39ZA aircraft with rockets and canons would be shown here.
27. There are other ongoing Research and Development projects in the Nigerian Air Force, in collaboration with various local organizations while others are planned for the future. The projects include:
a. Production of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles through the use of indigenous technology for Nigerian Air Force operational use.
b. Production of a prototype multi-role aircraft.
c. Reverse engineering on most armament and associated equipment.
d. Manufacturing of aircraft spares through indigenous technology.
e. Design and production of a bullet resistance vest.
f. Capacity development for rapid runway repair.
28. We are mindful of the fact that the success of these ongoing and future Research and Development projects would depend a lot on the commitment of our personnel and our various partners. Nevertheless, the significance of political support cannot be overemphasized. We therefore solicit a continuation of the support, which the Federal Government has been so generous in giving.
29. The various feats achieved by the Nigerian Air Force through indigenous Research and Development efforts in collaboration with various Nigerian organizations and tertiary institutions have no doubt impacted positively on aircraft availability for diverse air operations, particularly in the ongoing counterinsurgency operations. Besides, the local innovations are assisting the Service to overcome total dependence on foreign vendors thereby reducing cost of equipment acquisition and maintenance. Herein lie the benefits of innovating locally in partnership with relevant stakeholders.
30. I therefore seize this opportunity to appreciate the numerous partners of the Nigerian Air Force, particularly our universities and polytechnics, in its quest for technological advancements and local innovations. I would equally like to commend their sense of patriotism, commitment and enthusiasm. At the end of this madness in the Northeast, the names of our partners will be written in gold for their contribution in making the Nigerian Air Force to fly. We will not rest on our oars as we forge ahead with other ongoing and future Research and Development projects towards the development of the Nigerian Air Force and the Nation at large. We remain confident in the tremendous support we receive from President Muhammadu Buhari and as such, we are fully committed to bequeathing to the Nation, a technologically driven air force with capabilities to excel in the 21st Century.
Thank you for listening and God bless.
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