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62 Days After, Crew Of Nigerian Air Force Fighter Jet Still Missing

The Nigerian military is still looking for Crew members of an Alpha Jet that went missing in March.

Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet remains missing 62 days after the military aircraft on a combat support mission disappeared from radar over the dreaded Sambisa forest area in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria.

A search and rescue operation for the pilots; Flight Lieutenant Chapele Ebiakpo and Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa was launched when authorities lost contact with the two-seater Alpha jet with call sign NAF 475 on March 31. 

The Airforce spokesperson, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet informed HumAngle on Monday that the search was still ongoing and won’t stop until NAF finds the wreckage and missing pilots.

The Alpha Jet, a light attack jet and advanced jet trainer aircraft equipped with rocket and unguided bombs before the crash, played a vital role in Nigeria’s counterinsurgency campaign in the northeast, with the Air Force employing both Alpha Jet E trainer and Alpha Jet A, ground-attack oriented variants.

The first batch of Alpha jets was acquired by the Nigerian Government in the 1980s and later weaponised to support Nigerian troops conducting Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) duties in the 1990s.

The missing Alpha Jet was part of the deliveries from the United States which started with two Alpha Jets (NAF475 and NAF477) in March and May 2015, a third (NAF478) in June 2016 and fourth (NAF476) in December 2018.

According to Sahara Reporters, families of the pilots are still in the dark and concerned over the fate of the crew. 

In April, Boko Haram released a manipulated video showing fighters and the debris of the Alpha jet in an area where the group was active. 

The Sambisa forest area was recently overrun by Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP), increasing the risk associated with military activities in the area. 

On Sept. 11, 2014, an Alpha Jet NAF466 went down at Kauri while conducting an air interdiction mission in support of then Operation Zaman Lafiya, now known as Operation Hadin Kai.

The pilot Wing Commander Chimda Hedima was subsequently killed while the co-pilot Group Captain Abdulrasheed Bamidele Braimoh remains missing.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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