The Nigerian Air Force’s (NAF’s) efforts to locally maintain, repair and overhaul aircraft are bearing fruit, with the service recently reintroducing three L-39ZA Albatros jets to service and carrying out periodic depot maintenance (PDM) on its C-130 Hercules transports. On June 21 three L-39ZAs were officially taken into service after being made airworthy by Nigerian engineers and technicians with assistance from Aero Vodochody. Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, speaking during the handover ceremony at 403 Flying Training School in Kano, said that another six L-39ZAs would be reactivated with the assistance of Aero Vodochody.
The Nigerian Air Force, which previously flew L-29 Delfins, received a total of 24 L-39ZAs between 1986 and 1987 but many of these were grounded in the late 1980s and early 1990s following sanctions against the military government. In recent years they have been used extensively for training and counter-insurgency operations in the northeast against Boko Haram terrorists.
Abubakar noted that the return to service of the aircraft was not just part of the NAF’s efforts to locally carry out maintenance, but was also aimed at increasing the number of trainers available as new pilots are prepared to fly the NAF’s new acquisitions, which include JF-17 Thunder fighters, A-29 Super Tucano trainer/attack aircraft and Mi-35M and AW109E Power helicopters.
The NAF’s efforts to locally maintain aircraft are aimed at self-sufficiency and cost saving, with the saved money being channelled to other projects. Other local maintenance efforts have seen the first successful in-country PDM on C-130H-30 NAF917. This was accepted back in to service during a ceremony at the 631 Aircraft Maintenance Depot (631 ACMD) in Ikeja on June 24. The aircraft was made serviceable again by NAF engineers in conjunction with France’s Sabena Technics. PDM is required every six years or 5,000 flying hours.
Meanwhile, technicians from the Pakistan Air Force Technical Assistance Group are helping Nigerian engineers with PDM on another C-130H, NAF913. A decade ago, Nigeria had eight C-130s in its inventory but only one was airworthy. Over the years the central African nation have gradually been returned to service, with one being refurbished at OGMA in Portugal and one by Marshall Aerospace in the United Kingdom. Today the C-130H fleet is vital for sustaining troops on internal security and regional peacekeeping operations such as Nigeria’s recent intervention in the Gambia.
Over the last decade, the NAF has returned to service a number of different types, including G222 transports and Alpha Jets – over the last four years the NAF said it had brought more than 15 previously unserviceable aircraft back to flying condition. Together with partners, the Nigerian Air Force is trying to do most maintenance locally on its Alpha Jet, L-39ZA, Mi-35P, EC135 and C-130H fleets. Local maintenance and repair workers have weaponised four secondhand Alpha Jets it acquired from civilian operators in the United States. Guy Martin