A retired Nigerian Air Force general and a former Alpha Jet pilot has dismissed Boko Haram’s claim of downing a Nigerian military jet, saying the group has no capacity to shoot down the aircraft.
The Nigerian Air Force on Thursday reported one of its Alpha Jets missing over Borno after it disappeared from the radar while on a mission against Boko Haram.
The following day, the force said the aircraft might have crashed and disclosed that investigation was underway to unravel what became the fate of the missing plane.
On Friday, Boko Haram released a video footage, claiming it shot down the jet. The clip showed an aircraft explodes and burst into flames in the air. In another part of the video, one of the sect’s fighters was seen standing on the burning wreckage of an aircraft that looked like an Alpha Jet.
The Nigerian Air Force has dismissed the claim as a propaganda by the group.
Picking holes in the insurgents’ claim, a retired Air Vice Marshal who had flown Alpha Jets for over two decades while in service, said the video was doctored to portray Boko Haram as a strong group.
According to the former pilot who flew many sorties in Alpha Jet over Liberia during the country’s civil war in the1990s, the video shown by Boko Haram depicted a missile’s impact on an aircraft.
“They don’t have missiles so they could not have fired the one they showed in the video and the RPGs that were shown in the video don’t have the range to go that far,” he said.
He also pointed to the clear weather in the video as another evidence of a Boko Haram lie.
“The sky in the video was clear contrary to what the weather was in Borno on that day. The weather was hazy all around Borno. That also put a lie to their claim,” he said.
The retired General explained that even an Anti-Aircraft Gun could not have brought down the aircraft except it was flying very low, within the gun’s 2000 meters effective range.
“Even if the jet was flying low and got hit by an A-A, it would not explode. In such a situation, two things can happen: It is either the pilot is injured or damage is caused to the engine.
“Even so, the jet will not explode as we have seen in their video but it may crash,” he said.
He said the fire that was seen on the wreckage of the aircraft in the video, may have resulted from the impact of the jet hitting ground, as the aircraft can move at a speed of 10kilometers per minute.
“Going by the chemistry of fire, if you have trees and fuel, all you need is the heat to start a fire and the heat becomes available on impact,” he added.
He also said Boko Haram members being at the scene of the crash does not mean they shot it, adding that because the insurgents dominate the general area, “if something happens, they easily reach the place and their members and people living in the vicinity easily give them information.”
However, he said, hostile activity cannot be entirely ruled out at the moment, pointing that an investigation has to be carried out to arrive at what exactly happened.
“Even though it will be difficult for investigators to get there,” he said.