Air Vice Marshal Lubo, please allow me to stand on existing protocol, and thank you so much for having us here today.
Also, welcome and thank you to our distinguished guests from the U.S. Air Force and Army Corps of Engineers who have made the trip.
I would be remiss not to recognize an individual who is not here today: Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, who departed Nigeria one month ago and entered retirement after 38 years of service to the U.S. government, including three Ambassadorships. Nobody did more than she in recent years to strengthen this relationship, and to support a stronger military-to-military partnership.
Good morning, everyone. It is an honor to represent the United States here in Kainji on such a significant occasion.
Well before my arrival in Nigeria last year, I was hearing about the A-29s. I have closely tracked the progress of the A-29 program because of what it represents in this new era of U.S.–Nigeria security partnership. Today, I am delighted to celebrate the fruits of that partnership and commitment. Nigeria’s A-29 program addresses critical Nigerian needs, is the largest U.S. foreign military sale in history to any country in sub-Saharan Africa, and is truly an example of Nigeria’s leadership and professionalism as reflected in the Air Force motto, “Willing – Able – Ready.”
A key enabler for the effective employment of the A-29s is the construction here at Kainji, which meets U.S. standards for munitions storage, safety, security, and quality. Without a proper and modern runway, hangar, training facility, or storage area, the A-29s would be grounded; with this construction, it can truly take flight. And we have already seen just how important this program is. The Nigerian Air Force has used the A-29s to great effect in the fight against terrorists, and the use of the latest targeting technologies and precision weapons minimizes civilian casualties. Just last October, the NAF demonstrated the effectiveness of the A-29s when the Nigerian military successfully repelled a terrorist attack on nearby Wawa Cantonment, just a few miles down the road.
The A-29s are a critical piece off the puzzle in Nigeria’s fight against insecurity and extremism but it’s not just about the machines or the facilities, it’s the people in and behind them.
Proper maintenance and ground support are critical to keeping the A-29s in the fight, and the A-29 Program Management Office at Nigerian Air Force Headquarters is a large part of that success. The Program Management Office is an internationally recognized best practice to support long-term sustainment, and we’re proud that the A-29 is the first NAF airframe with this support mechanism. I look forward to seeing U.S.-Nigerian collaboration lead to additional advancements through projects like the A-29.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Air-To-Ground Integration program or AGI. Six courses of students from all three military services have graduated from the program, and we look forward to working with the NAF to develop the AGI Schoolhouse. These programs deepen the U.S.-Nigerian partnership and help the Nigerian military become not just the premier fighting force in Africa, but a stabilizing force in the region.
We are cutting the ribbon at three different sites here in Kainji today, which is pretty impressive, but this is far from the end of the U.S. work at the base. We remain willing, able, and ready to support the A-29 equipment and construction warranties and to discuss requests for additional equipment. As the U.S. Air Force says, let’s “aim high” for the next iteration with the AH-1Z. Thank you.