The much publicized Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) also known as ‘drone’ designed and manufactured locally by the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) in conjunction with other local institutions was on Tuesday unveiled in Kaduna by a visibly excited President Goodluck Jonathan.
The drone appropriately named “GULMA” (Hausa language term for gossip), was unveiled at the Air Force Base, Mando in Kaduna by President Jonathan, who described the launch of the UAV as a “landmark moment” in Nigeria’s history.
He also supervised the winging of 11 locally trained UAV pilots at the occasion.
“Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, with a deep sense of pride and accomplishment, I now unveil the Nigerian-made Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, also known as GULMA,” President Jonathan said at the occasion.
“Considering the potential impact of its benefit and versatility, I cannot but say, how proud I am of the men and women of our Armed Forces.
“Apart from their commitment to the protection of our sovereignty, they are helping to keep our nation ahead in military science and technology and to keep their civilian counterparts, on their toes,” the President said.
“In the year past, we have launched the first indigenous combat vessel, developed by our Navy, and various Armoured and operational vehicles developed by the Nigerian Army.
“To all of you, I say thank you. Your collective efforts have opened a new vista of innovation and opportunity for our nation,” he added.
In his speech, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh explained that the surveillance aircraft was named GULMA because of its function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform.
According to him, the idea began in 2005 with the acquisition of three Aerostar UAVs for the defunct Presidential Committee on Maritime Safety and Security, PICOMSS, which was frustrated “by numerous vendor-related problems that eventually led to the grounding of all the three systems in 2009.
“Following the dissolution of PICOMSS in 2012, the Federal Government handed over the UAVs to the NAF”.
He said NAF Optimising Local Engineering, NAF OLE, which handled the project, did it at the cost of $3 million, half of the $6 million quoted by foreign vendors and also trained 15 UAV pilots at less than half a million dollars compared to the $2 million quoted by foreign vendors to train only three pilots.
Information Nigeria reports that the launch was attended by all the service chiefs, Gov. Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of Kaduna State, Supervising Minister of Defence, Labaran Maku among other dignitaries drawn mostly from the Armed Forces.
It is widely believed that with the official unveiling of “GULMA”, the UAV can now be deployed to the troubled North East region to monitor the activities of militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram, which has been coordinating and launching guerilla attacks from the rugged mountains and forests of Maiduguri, Borno State.