Africa-Press – Liberia. For the purpose of reactivating the Air Wing of the Armed Forces of Liberia, visitors from the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s army Air Force are in the country as guests of the Armed Forces of Liberia. As part of their visitation, they toured and assessed various facilities and met with the necessary aviation stakeholders.
The Nigerian Air Force delegation are specialists, who are being led by Air Vice Marshall FO Edosa, to assess the operational status and make projections for the way forward to reactivate the Liberian Air Wing.
By Mae Azango
“Nigeria is very happy to help strengthen the long standing relationship with Liberia. The Nigerian Government has approved the further training of two officers in special areas of aircraft training. I would say this is just the beginning due to our bilateral relationship. For the past two days, we have visited the James Spriggs Payne Airport and the Roberts International Airport to know what is on ground and we spoke with airport authorities. We are here to reactivate the Liberia Armed Force wings. The intent of the visit is to assess and see if we are pointed in the right direction, and with time, things we have documented, like making estimates, will give us an idea in going about the process,” said FO Edosa, head of the delegation.
He said reactivating the AFL wings will not happen in one of two years and that the process entails a lot of preparations, so this is the reason for their assessment visit to Liberia.
Also touching on the timeframe, AFL Chief of Staff, Major General Prince C. Johnson, said he, too, cannot put a period as to when the AFL wings will be ready.
“This started like a year ago when we went to Ghana. We visited their technical schools; we visited Nigeria and today we have an assessment team from Nigeria. As you may be aware, our air reconnaissance unit operational air book started at the James Spriggs Payne Airport. There is a place there where the planes used to be repaired. When UNMIL was leaving they turned it over, and our visiting team went and saw that and they also visited the Roberts International Airport,” she said.
Responding to why the AFL is making preparations for reactivating the air wings when Liberia does not have a national airliner and why does the AFL need air wings at this time, Chief of Staff Johnson said gave the assurance that Liberia will have her own plane in time.
“The Armed Forces of Liberia had aircrafts but due to the civil war, we ourselves destroyed them. The strategic objective is to fulfill a Constitutional document — 2008 National Defense Act — that says the AFL needs three branches — the Army, Liberian Coast Guard, and the Air Wings. In addition, it is to support civil authority. I give you one example, had we activated the air wings by now, as we are currently conducting the 2022 Census, we could have helped the enumerators get to the hard-to-reach counties, because transportation is a challenge. There are no roads to some places. Had we had a helicopter, we would have been assisting LISGIS, like when UNMIL was here and helping us reach those places,” he reminisced.
According to 2nd Lieutenant G. Randy Ellis, Public Affairs Officer, Armed Forces of Liberia, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, President George Weah, in his wisdom has seen it prudent to reactivate the Liberian Air Wing. Based on that, the Armed Forces of Liberia has solicited the technical expertise of ECOWAS countries especially the Nigerian Air Force.”
Giving a history of the past air wings, he narrated that the Air Wings of the army was founded in 1970 with the delivery of three Cessna U-17C light aircraft. The Aviation Unit was expanded in the 1980s with the delivery of more Cessna aircrafts: three 172s, a 206, 207 and two single engine turboprop 208s. In 1985, it operated three fixed-wing aircrafts from Spriggs Payne Airport in Monrovia, including Cessna 172s. Their duties included reconnaissance and transport of light cargo and Very Important Personalities.
He further said the Liberian Air Wing was established by an Act of Legislature on August 12, 1987. Its statutory responsibilities were to protect and defend the air space of the Republic of Liberia; protect lives and properties; provide air mobility for military and civil personnel; assist in search and rescue operations. And other responsibilities are: to undertake emergency operations; conduct reconnaissance patrols; participate in joint military operations and perform other duties as may be designated by the Ministry of Defense. But as a result of the 15-year civil war, all the aircrafts, equipment, materials, and facilities belonging to the Liberian Air Wing were badly damaged, rendering the force inoperable. Following its participation in the Liberian Civil War, the Armed Forces of Liberia was in 2005 disbanded and restructured alongside other security forces, as part of the Security Sector Reform (SSR). The Liberian Air Wing was also formally dissolved in 2005 as part of the armed forces demobilization program, though it had effectively ceased to exist during the civil war.
Section 2.2 of The National Defense Act of 2008 authorized that the New AFL shall comprise the Army, Coast Guard and the Air Wing and such other components that shall be established by an Act of the Legislature. The Army and Coast Guard are currently operational, while the Air Wing is still in the formative stage.