Nigerian Army begins aviation unit, acquires two new helicopters

The Nigerian Army has bolstered its operational capabilities with the addition of two new Bell UH1 helicopters, marking the commencement of its aviation unit.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, inspected the helicopters at the Nigeria Police Air Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on Thursday.

Lt.-Gen. Lagbaja stated that the journey to establishing the army aviation wing began in 2014, under the former COAS, retired Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah.

“I am glad that, as conceptual­ised 10 years later, we have today, taken delivery of our first set of platforms.

“The journey, as predicted by the initial dreamers, has not been easy but here we are today by the grace of God, realising our dream.

“We are new to this business, and as newcomers, we must ac­knowledge our forerunners like the NAF, NN, and the NPF.

“We are on our learning curve in the aviation business, and we hope it will be a pleasant experi­ence that will enhance our opera­tional successes,” he said.

The COAS emphasized the strategic importance of the new helicopters, describing them as a game-changer for the army’s operational activities.

He said they will be utilized for casualty evacuation, reconnaissance, and surveillance, providing flexibility and support to troops in critical areas.

On his part, Brig.-Gen. Musa Alkali, Coordinator of Nigerian Army Aviation, said the introduction of the advanced air platforms represents a significant enhancement in the army’s operational readiness and ability to respond to diverse security challenges.

“These platforms will signifi­cantly bolster the reconnaissance, surveillance, and air mobility ca­pabilities, thereby enhancing our overall operational effectiveness.

“As we integrate these plat­forms into our operations, let us also remember that the true strength of our aviation lies in the skilled and courageous personnel who operate and maintain these machines.

“Their professionalism, dedi­cation, and expertise are the bed­rock upon which our success is built,” he said.

Retired Maj.-Gen. Emeka Onwuamaegbu commended the Nigerian Army leadership for making the aviation unit a reality.

“The army invested so much in me in this aspect of military operations but unfortunately, I didn’t use those skills when I was in service.

“It was a great pleasure a few months ago when I heard that the Nigerian army was about to oper­ationalise the aviation corps, and I met the Chief of Army Staff, and he trusted me to be involved.

“These platforms will form the foundation for the growth of the Nigerian army,” he said.

In 2023, the COAS revealed that President Bola Tinubu had approved the acquisition of 12 MD 530F Cayuse Attack Helicopters, further enhancing the army’s aviation capabilities.

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