Enhancing Internal Security: Nigerian Air Force Conducts Counter Terrorism Exercise, “Exercise Na Zo”
As part of its continued efforts geared towards developing the capacity of its personnel to combat terrorism and secure lives and properties of Nigerians, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) today, 28 October 2019, conducted a Counter Terrorism (CT) Simulation Exercise along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road. The Exercise, code named “EXERCISE NA ZO”, was aimed at testing NAF operational doctrine and tactics for effective CT operations as well as evaluating the synergy between air and surface forces in a complex air-ground operational environment. The CT Exercise (CTEX) involved NAF Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms as well as attack aircraft along with NAF Special Forces (SF) and Canine (K-9) Teams, who were practiced on their individual and group skills in the planning, coordination and execution of CT operations.
Speaking during the Exercise, the Special Guest of Honour (SGOH), Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin, highlighted the critical importance of training and exercises to a fighting force, like the NAF, towards ensuring greater success in combat operations. According to him, the NAF had blazed the trail by ensuring that its personnel are engaged in exercises that evolve lessons, tactics and doctrine in the conduct of CT operations. Gen Olonisakin stated that, as a Service vested with the enviable role of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria by air, the timing of the Exercise was apt, affording the NAF the opportunity to assess the physical alertness and combat readiness of its personnel with a view to making necessary adjustments and changes. “Even more important is the fact that an event of this nature is being organized at a time the NAF and its sister Services are engaged in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in the Northeastern part of Nigeria as well as Anti-banditry in the North West and North Central”, he said.
The CDS seized the opportunity to express his profound appreciation to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (C-in-C), President Muhammadu Buhari, for his continued support to the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) in general and the NAF in particular. He noted that Nigerians were undoubtedly appreciative of the C-in-C’s commitment to ensuring a secured Nigeria as well as the efforts of the AFN in the fight against terrorism and other societal ills. While congratulating the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, and his team for the well-conceived and timely exercise, the CDS expressed optimism that the underlying lessons of the event would go a long way in resolving the current security challenges in the Country.
In his remarks, the CAS expressed his delight to have the CDS physically present to witness the first ever CTEX conducted by the NAF. He noted that the Exercise was deliberately conceptualized to practice NAF air and ground elements in order to engender a better understanding of the nuances of air-ground integration as well as other critical elements of CT operations. He disclosed that the Service would conduct a number of such exercises between October 2019 and January 2020 with a view to identifying and tackling problems associated with air-ground integration as well as highlighting the crucial role of joint planning and coordination to the success of operations. Furthermore, he said the planned simulation exercises would also enable the Service to appraise the effectiveness of its Force Protection in Complex Air-Ground Environment (FPCAGE) measures in securing its bases and air assets for efficient, unhindered conduct of air operations. Air Marshal Abubakar noted that, similar to EXERCISE NA ZO, the forthcoming exercises would practice NAF Flying Units; Regiment and Special Forces Teams; Air Provost and K-9 Units as well as Intelligence and other elements, such as Medical, to enhance coordination and improve decision-making of commanders in order to ensure mission accomplishment in virtually every encounter. He added that the conduct of such training had become even more crucial given the increasing involvement of NAF Regiment and SF personnel in Internal Security (IS) operations across the Country.
In his welcome address, the Air Officer Commanding Special Operations Command (AOC SOC), Air Vice Marshal James Gwani, said the CTEX was in consonance with the CAS’ Vision to “reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives”. The timing for the event, he said, could not have been more apt as the NAF is currently engaged in COIN, anti-banditry and other IS operations in various operational theatres within the country. He believed that the Exercise would go a long way in further developing personnel’s capacity, professionalism and combat readiness as the NAF continues to battle forces of insecurity in the Nation.
Highlights of the occasion included the operational briefing and giving of orders by the Commander 271 NAF Detachment Birnin Gwari, Group Captain Idorenyin Bassey, along with his sub-unit and component commanders, which was held behind closed doors. This was followed by the seamless execution of the operational plan, which featured live firing of rockets from NAF fixed and rotary wing attack aircraft; insertion, by rappelling, of NAF SF and K-9 elements and movement of teams into the objective area as well as subsequent rescue of hostages, arrest of the suspected armed bandits, extraction of the assault team by road and evacuation of casualties by air, while being provided with close air support by an attack helicopter overhead the objective.
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