Kenya to acquire helicopters from US despite budgetary cuts

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A MD 530F light aircraft.
A MD 530F light aircraft. PHOTO/COURTESY: US Department of Defense

The government of Kenya has stepped up its efforts in combating terrorism by purchasing six state of the art helicopter gunships from the United States in a Ksh. 25 billion ($253 million) deal despite government cuts on expenditure.

According to international arms magazine Jane’s Defence Weekly, MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) is set to deliver 12 MD 530F light-attack helicopters to Kenya as part of a wider US Army effort to equip allied air forces with up to 150 smaller but efficient helicopters.

Under the deal, announced by MDHI on 27 September, 2018,  six helicopters will be delivered to Kenya by the end of August 2019. The deal covers only half of the 12 helicopters that were approved for sale by the US State Department in May last year.

The light aircrafts will be fitted with Weapons Management System, armour protection, machine gun pods and seven-shot pods for unguided rockets.

The purchase of the new firepower illustrates President Uhuru Kenyattas’ determination to augment Kenya’s defense system despite the Head of States’ decision to introduce budgetary cuts worth Ksh. 34 billion, across many government departments in a bid to tame unnecessary spending.

It is expected that the helicopters will be used to support the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and combat the growing Al-Shabaab threat that has encroached into the country in the past few years.

The efficacy of the helicopters Kenya is set to purchase was however questioned by members of the Afghanistan Army; who in the past have used such machinery which they acquired from the United States as well.

According to a local daily, a New York Times interview with Afghanistan’s most decorated pilot Colonel Qalandar Shah Qalandari revealed that the helicopters do not fully live up to expectations.

Colonel Qalandari is quoted as saying that ‘the birds cannot reach areas where Taliban insurgents operate from because they cannot cross the mountain ranges that surround Kabul.”

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