The ’’Air Expo 2010”, put together by the Nigerian Air Force took place in Kaduna, Nigeria May 11- 14, 2010.
The theme of the event was “Enhancing the Nigerian Air Force Capability through Private Sector Partnership’’ and was held in commemoration of the 46th anniversary of the Nigerian Air Force, established in April 1964.
The expo featured the exhibition of an military of military and ancillary equipment by over 43 participating defence sector companies a total of nine countries, including Nigeria. participated. The event featured static and aerial displays of aircraft, workshops and seminars and the commissioning of new aircraft series.
Declaring open the event, President Goodluck Jonathan, said of the Nigerian Air Force: “Your projection of Nigeria’s image in Liberia and Sierra-Leone when the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) was put in place two decades back still comes up in discourse on regional projection of air power. One can only observe the professionalism that has become synonymous with your operations locally and internationally”.
He described the theme of the “Air Expo” as apt as it reflected the current thinking of the nation, adding that it would not only lay a solid foundation for public/private sector collaboration in the Nigerian Air Force but also seek to move the service forward in improving its capacity to deliver on its mandate.
Jonathan said: “Through this initiative, the Nigerian Air Force can put together additional resources to sustain its training efforts and simultaneously contribute to the nation’s dwindling manpower requirement. It is, therefore, a welcome idea that this year’s celebration is tagged ‘AIR EXPO 2010’- the first of its kind to be organised by the Nigerian Air Force”.
President Jonathan thereafter commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force inventory, three new aircraft types namely the Chengdu F7NI AirGuard, the ATR 42MPA Surveyor maritime patrol aircraft and the Augusta A109 LUH military helicopter.
He further noted that the survival of any nation largely depended on its ability to have a competent air force that would provide it with external and internal options in certain situations, adding that the experience that NAF had gained in almost five decades of traversing areas of conflict in several African countries would stand it in good stead for the challenges ahead.
The incumbent Chief of Defence Staff (then Chief of the Air Staff), Air Marshal (now Air Chief Marshal) Oluseyi Petinrin, said the essence of Air Expo 2010 was to create a forum for stakeholders in the defence and aviation industries to interact, with a view to strengthening the industry in line with extant global practices. He added that there was a huge market potential in the growing aviation industry, not only in Nigeria, but the ECOWAS sub-region and indeed the African continent in the years ahead, and that the forum provided an opportunity to explore the same.
According to him, the Air Expo, which brought together various stakeholders from within and outside the country, was also aimed at promoting public-private cooperation in the spirit of the Federal Government’s vision 20:2020.
Furthermore, Petinrin explained that the idea behind the event was also borne out of the need to include Nigeria in the global trend, having seen such in places like the United Kingdom and France in the bi-annual Famborough Air Show and the Paris Air Show.
He said: “Although, this is just a humble beginning, it is hoped that the Air Expo will evolve into an international air show, fashioned along the lines of Paris and Farnborough air shows in the years ahead”.
Petinrin stated that the move to improve the lot of NAF and justify its existence had yielded fruit following appropriation favoured by the signing of various contracts for the reactivation of some grounded airframes in the fleet, saying this was a clear indication that the Nigerian Air Force.
Interestingly, he said the decision to domicile major inspection and maintenance programmes within the country had led to several companies like Alenia Aeronautica, Agusta Westland and Belarussian BSVT taking steps to establish their service and maintenance centres in various parts of the country to increase the local content initiative of the government.
The highpoint of the “Air Expo 2010″ event was the aerial display by some of the newly-commissioned aircraft and other operational aircraft in the NAF fleet. Aircraft which were seen on static and/or aerial display included the F7NI AirGuard fighter jets, Mi-35P and Mi-24V attack helicopters which were variously acquired from Russia and Ukraine in 2001 and 2009 respectively (according to a reports gleaned from the UN Register of Conventional Arms Transfers, two additional units of Mi-24V gunships were delivered to the NAF in 2010 from Belarus).
Other airframes put on display included Dornier Do-228 utility aircraft, L39 Albatross advanced trainer/light attack subsonic jets, Alenia ATR-42MPA Surveyor maritime patrol aircraft, Agusta A109 LUH military helicopters and Agusta A109e Power maritime helicopters of the Nigerian Navy Air Arm.
Air Expo 2010 also featured military parades and the exhibition of air weapons and ancillary equipment.
With additional background reports from NIGERIAN TRIBUNE