The United States government has approved the sale of 12 new American-made helicopter gunships to Kenya as it seeks to flex her defense muscle owing to the increased security threats from Somalia based Al Shabaab militia group.
This comes despite earlier antagonism to a weapons purchase deal that Kenya had sought from Washington.
According to the US State Department, the purchase is worth an estimated $253 million (Sh25 billion) and includes MD530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters, machine gun pod systems, rocket launcher systems and assorted ammunition.
Sources reveal that the US Army Security Assistance Command will send a formal letter to Kenya as acceptance of the deal.
The US Defense Security Cooperation in a statement last month said that the sale will help Kenya “modernize its rotorcraft fleet in order to improve border security, undertake operations against Somalia-based jihadist group Al-Shabaab and as a troop contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).”
According to the Nation, the arms will include 12 MD530F weaponized helicopters, 24 heavy machine gun pods, 24 HMP400 machine gun pod systems, 24 M260 rocket pods and 4,032 M151 high-explosive rockets.
Under the deal, Kenya will also be offered logistics support, training and technical assistance, spare parts and field service support and special assigned airlift mission flight delivery.
“This sale will significantly enhance the Kenyan Army’s modernization efforts and increase inter-operability with the US Armed Forces and other partners in the region,” the US state agency said.
The helicopter in the proposed sale agreement has been used by the Afghanistan Air Force, and its effectiveness in battle has been questioned.
Colonel Qalandar She Qalandari of the Afgani Air Force was recently quoted in the New Times saying the helicopter is “unsafe to fly, the engine is too weak, the tail rotor is defective and it’s not armoured… If we go down after the enemy we’re going to have enemy return fire, which we can’t survive. If we go up higher, we can’t visually target the enemy. Even the guns are no good.”
A global report shows that Kenya’s upgrade in military hardware has risen its spending on the armed forces to Sh96 billion, exceeding those of neighboring Ethiopia and Uganda combined.