Photos from ‘Exercise Thunderbolt’ held at Murtala Mohammed airport by Nigerian Airforce

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) today held a second counter terrorist exercise codenamed “Thunder Bolt” at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. As usual, the exercise objective was to ascertain the readiness of the NAF to foil terrorist attack and hostage taking at any of the nation’s airports. The exercise scenario centred on hostage taking by a terrorist group and likeliness of reinforcing to inflict damage on air assets and other facilities.

The rescue operation was conducted in two phases. Phase One involved dropping troops on top of the airport terminal building from a helicopter and accessing the building from the roof top as well as deployment of assault and sniper teams at vantage positions around the airport to subdue terrorists within the terminal building. Phase Two was targeted at stopping would-be terrorist reinforcement from gaining access to the airside. The goal here is to stop external support from reaching the terrorists in order to safeguard air assets packed on the apron and other airport facilities from being destroyed. In a situation where airport perimeter fence has been breached and the Mobile Air Defence Team (MADT), which usually is integral to the standard airport defence arrangement, is unable to effectively contain a large number of advancing terrorists, the exercise incorporated provision of reinforcement to MADT by way of closed air support (CAS) strike by Alpha Jet, as well as rappelling of additional troops behind the terrorists in addition to mop-up by NAF helicopter gunship.

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The Exercise, which essentially is aimed at exercising the NAF’s counter terrorist tactics and coordination with other agencies was adjudged satisfactory by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Mshl Sadique Abubakar, and the Secretary to the Government of Lagos State, Mr Tunji Bello. While fielding questions from journalists at the end of the exercise, Air Mshl Abubakar was quick to add that areas of lapses or gaps observed would be addressed with a view to perfect subsequent exercises. Other agencies that participated in the exercise include the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) as well as Federal and State Emergency Management Agencies.

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Recall that the NAF held the first counter terrorist exercise in Abuja at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on 7 September 2016. The NAF plans to conduct the exercise in all the major airports across the country.

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