Since 2015, the Nigerian Army in conjunction with sister services and other security agencies have systematically degraded the capabilities and capacity of Boko Haram terrorists and many successes were achieved. However, in the last· 2 – 3 months, we have· noticed daring moves by the terrorists, increased use of drones against our defensive positions and infusion of foreign fighters in their ranks. These potent threats require us to continually review our operations.”
- Brigadier-General Sani Kukasheka Usman, in statement issued on behalf of Chief of Army Staff, 28th November 2018.
The Nigerian Air Force, according to President Muhammad Buhari, is constantly striving to maintain· the strategic advantage· through the evolution of new strategies for the employment· of air power to more effectively prosecute· the ongoing war against insurgency/terrorism in the Northeast of Nigeria as well as curb· acts of criminality in other parts of the country. Echoing the President’s remarks at the opening of NAF’s International Air Power Seminar on November 19, this year, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar acknowledged that the changing character of warfare has necessitated the need for a change in the way armed forces approach warfare engagements. “While the engagement in conventional or regular warfare remains a possibility, the global predominant threat to nations has become more irregular in nature.”
True, the rapidly changing dynamics in the international arena and the evolving approaches to warfare require careful understanding of the threats and response options available for the projection· of air power in addressing national security imperatives. Contemporary warfare, especially the asymmetrical type necessitated by terrorists and insurgents necessitate new technology and vastly more technological or scientific orientation for a dynamic fighting force.
When armoured tanks rumbled onto the battlefield for the first time on the 15th September 1916, soldiers on the opposing British and German sides were shocked to see them. They were all mostly equipped with artillery guns that were almost identical to those used by the army of French general, Napoleon Bonaparte in the 1810s!
According to military historians, the major impact of technology on World War I (WWI) was that it made the war much more difficult for the infantry soldiers who did most of the fighting. The new technologies (armoured tanks) led to trench warfare and the lack of new tactics led to massive slaughter at the hands of the new technology.
In “The first· tanks and the Battle of Somme,” author Paul Jankowski’s near comic recollections of witnesses illustrated the confounding tragic presence that the new technology of unearthly monsters called armoured tank brought to the battlefield.
“To a Bavarian infantry officer· on the Somme in the early morning hours· of 15 September 1916, the rhomboid, tracked behemoths lurching at him amidst waves of attacking enemy infantry had no name. The British called them “tanks,” but he could not know this; neither he nor any of his commanders had ever seen or heard of them.”
Technology, along with science and education assert fundamental changes on warfare. It may be somewhat imaginable to visualize how Boko Haram insurgents combined the use of mines, bomb-laden drones and mercenaries to confound otherwise brave and resilient Nigerian troops in the asymmetrical war going on in isolated outposts like Metele.
According to a military intelligence analyst, Don Rassler of the US-based Combating Terrorism Center based in the United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York, the United States’ reaction to the realization of ISIS’ preoccupation with the use of drones included the Pentagon’s creation of a $700 million program by the Pentagon to devise tactics and technology for dealing with the new menace of terrorist drones.
In Nigeria, the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) is one of the clearest, long-term military strategy to utilize new technology in aeronautics, aerospace engineering and avionics to deal with emerging threats including those posed by drones.
While Nigeria may understandably lack such quantum of resources in view of competing national needs and limited revenue, pitiable budgetary allocations does not appear to completely hinder AFIT from asserting its focus of being one of the nation’s leading edges against insurgency.
Budgetary constraints largely contributed to the chequered history of the Kaduna-based Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) which was created in 1964. Over the years – sometimes in fits and starts – it produces some military and civilian products including OBJ-006 (an adaptation of AK-47 rifle named after President Obasanjo, PMS 12 Sub Machine Gun, pistols, Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher (RPG), General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), grenades, bullets, ceremonial swords, ballot boxes, Coat of Arms and so on but remains very far behind the Brazil Defence Industries Corporation which now manufactures military helicopters and other high calibre· armaments .
About three months ago, a number of brilliant young Nigerians from the Nigeria Air Force, along with other services and civilians quietly resumed as pioneer postgraduate students of the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) , Kaduna – a tertiary institution· with a blend of military and civilian staff and students. The institution also has intakes in specialized diploma-level courses.
Increasingly, technological innovation and optimal training have become the defining edge of societies and organizations aiming for wide-ranging effectiveness and a much better future; for the Nigeria Air Force; they have become strategic tools for sharpening the edge of a futuristic arrow tip of warfare in the defence of Nigeria’s territorial integrity. Indeed, as the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique B. Abubakar once said, establishment of a specialized technology-driven university reflects NAF’s drive and vision for capacity building in specialized areas for national development
In trying moments of the nation’s battle against insurgency, air power tends to make a significant difference once called in.
Beyond the tactical edge brought into the fight against insurgency by the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), local content development and colossal savings in foreign exchange meant for aircraft maintenance and personnel training abroad say a lot about the capacity for long-term visioning.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential assent and the approval given by the National Universities Commission made the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) a university and it promptly began its degree programme for the 2018/2019 academic year. The institute’s Commandant, Air Vice Marshal Cletus Nwannebuike Udeagulu speaks eloquently about competing favourably with similar specialized Institutions globally.
Passing the law to create the institution alone took years, tasking the known respect that the Nigeria Air Force and other arms of the military have for constituted civilian authority. In 2010, “A Bill For An Act to Establish the Nigerian Air Force Institute of Technology to Provide Technical Training to Personnel of the Nigeria Air Force and Other Services of the Nigerian Armed Forces and for Other Connected Purposes” was sponsored by Senator Idris Umar, Senator Munrideen A. Musa, Senator Mohammed K. Jibril, Senator Anthony George Manzo, Senator Isiaka A. Adeleke, Senator Ikechukwu J. Obiora, Senator Simeon O. Oduoye, Senator Odion M. Ugbesia, Senator John N. Shagaya, Senator Ramoni O. Oduoye and Senator Umar A. Argungu.
However, it was the 2013 version of the same bill sponsored by Senators Saidu Ahmed Alkali, Kamar Akin Babalola Odunsi, Sunny O. Ogbuoji, RobertA. Borroffice, KabirGarba Marafa, BasheerGarbaMohammed, Mohammed Bindowo Jibrilla and Elder Odion Ugbesia that sailed through. It subsequently received the seal of President Buhari.
I their co-authored publication, “Sustaining and Enhancing the US Military’s Technology Edge, ” Center for a New American Security’s Michèle A. Flournoy and US Air Force veteran, Lt Col Robert P. Lyons III attribute the staying power of American military might to “technological advantage” over copetitors and adversaries.
“The Department of Defense’s (DOD) ability to develop and integrate new, cutting-edge capabilities like stealth, precision-guided munitions, and networked command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) has been a vital source of strength, agility, and confidence in our nation’s armed forces. Along with the extraordinary quality of the men and women who serve in our all-volunteer force, our technological prowess has long been a distinct advantage that makes the US military the best in the world,” they asserted.
In furtherance of a declared vision of long-term preparation for national defence, exposure of warfare engineers and scientists to quality training by AFIT which has been duly accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), National Universities Commission (NUC), Council for the Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria (COREN) and Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) is expected to boost Nigeria’s defence capabilities in Aerospace Engineering and allied disciplines.
NAF’s Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola sees NAF deepening and extending its utilization of evolving technology in its ongoing and future military campaigns.
Commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology, Air Vice Marshal Cletus Nwannebuike Udeagulu asserts an institutional vision of getting the new university to become one of Nigeria’s top ten universities with globally competitive curriculum and critical partnerships that will make for outstanding capabilities in various areas of aerospace and defence engineering.
It was gathered that among other strategies, AFIT plans to provide 100 % on-campus accommodation for students and staff as well as state of the art lecture theatres and laboratories, including different aircraft models and live aircraft for aviation training. Without doubt, advanced training and researches in drone technology, including how to push NAF’s surveillance and other drone capabilities forward remains part of the focus.