By: Kingsley Omonobi
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has recorded another laudable research and development (R&D) breakthrough with the successful local design and fabrication of the hydraulic accumulator diaphragm of the L-39ZA aircraft.
With this feat, the NAF will no longer need to source for the diaphragm from overseas, thereby saving much needed foreign exchange while also reducing maintenance downtime occasioned by the erstwhile need to order the item from abroad.
Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, Director, Public Relations and Information said, “The achievement was made known by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on Thursday, 31 October 2019, during the formal demonstration of the locally fabricated diaphragm in the hydraulic system of an L-39ZA aircraft at the 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS) Kano.
” The CAS, while expressing extreme delight at the development as well as the successful demonstration of the diaphragm, stated that it was gratifying that the NAF had, for the first time, begun the local production of some spares of the L-39ZA, after 32 years of the aircraft being in its inventory”.
“He noted that, while the NAF was grateful to its foreign partners for their support and cooperation over the years, there was no substitute for building indigenous capacity and partnerships for R&D to ensure self-reliance.
In this regard, the CAS expressed special appreciation to Ayeolad Nigeria Ltd, Eniflex Industries Ltd and TAT Engineering Ltd for their contributions in making the L-39ZA hydraulic diaphragm production a reality.
“He noted that such collaborations would encourage other industries to look inwards to work with the NAF and other security agencies with a view to evolving innovative solutions to Nigeria’s problems, not just in the security sector but also in other areas of interest.
Air Marshal Abubakar remembered, with nostalgia, how, as Commander in Port Harcourt, he had initiated the R & D effort that led to the development of the hydraulic diaphragm for the Mi-35 Helicopter.
He observed that the diaphragm was so well produced that it was better in quality and versatility than the ones made by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
He commended the Chief of Standards and Evaluation (COSE) as well as the Director R & D Headquarters NAF (HQ NAF) and the leader of the R & D Team for the project, Air Commodore Austine Imafidor, for the breakthrough and many others achieved by the NAF.
For instance, he noted that the Bell 412 could now fire SNEB Rockets, which were designed for use on the Alpha Jet and other such aircraft, because of the locally adapted rocket tubes.
He urged the Team to strive to further improve the quality of the diaphragm while also looking into other areas of need.
The CAS stated that the NAF would continue to strengthen its partnership with Nigerian tertiary institutions and local companies with a view to not only solving identified problems but also expanding on solutions so derived to generate employment opportunities for youths as well as other socio-economic benefits.
Earlier in his welcome address, the COSE HQ NAF, Air Vice Marshal Regimius Ekeh, traced the history of the development of the hydraulic diaphragm for the Mi-35P, which had also been led by Air Commodore Imafidon, under the direction of the CAS.
He highlighted how this had facilitated the development of the one for the L-39ZA.
He noted that since a successful prototype had been developed, the next steps would be to enhance its quality and versatility whilst seeking ways to achieve mass production of the item.
He expressed his profound appreciation to the CAS for his unflinching support and strategic guidance that had resulted in the remarkable achievement.
Highlights of the event included the successful demonstration of the diaphragm’s functionality as well as a display of items utilised during the development process.
This was preceded by a brief on the project by Air Commodore Imafidor.
It would be recalled that the NAF, in 2016, received a patent right certificate from the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) for the local production of hydraulic diaphragms for the Mi-35 helicopter.