There are strong indications that the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) that went missing during combat mission in Borno State on Wednesday may have crashed killing the two pilots on board. Meanwhile wreckage of the plane have been found. Though the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jet which lost contact with the radar in the epicentre of Boko Haram insurgency has not been found, intelligence available to the Service indicates a possible crash. The pilots on board the ill-fated aircraft were: Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa, and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele. Saturday Telegraph recalls that the NAF had on Thursday morning declared the attack platform missing, with many speculating that it may have been brought down by suspected terrorist elements, which are reported to possess Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns.
This incident comes about a month after another NAF combat aircraft on surveillance mission in Niger State crashed some two hundred metres from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja. In a statement yesterday, the Director of Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, said the NAF was not ruling out any possibility. “Intelligence report gathered by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) indicates that the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) that went off the radar with two crew members on board on March 31 might have crashed”, Gabkwet said.
He said the cause of the crash as well as the whereabouts of the two pilots remained unknown. The DOPRI, nonetheless, assured that search and rescue efforts were continuing, with a view to recovering the asset and crew, regardless of the state of affairs. “Extensive search and rescue efforts are still ongoing by NAF surveillance air-Udencraft as well as NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops on ground. “At this point, the NAF is not ruling out anything regarding the incident. It however, remains hopeful that the crew would soon be found and rescued,” he added.