Kenya orders six MD 530F copters as it ramps up Shabaab offensive

Kenya Defence Forces received nine Fennec Helicopters from UAE late September

FILE: MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters. Photo: MD Helicopters Inc

By Fauxile Kibet

NAIROBI: Kenya is set to bolster its military air-power by acquiring new attack helicopters as it steps up its war on terror in the neighboring Somalia.

MD Helicopters Inc, a US military aircraft manufacturer announced September 27 it had received six orders from the Kenyan government to supply MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters. Initial deliveries will take place in April 2019, with all aircraft delivered prior to the August 2019 contract completion date, the manufacture said.

“This aircraft will be an exceptional addition to the KDF fleet,” MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) chief executive Lynn Tilton said. “It is effective, efficient, and a proven performer in combat operations. It is gratifying to see this iconic airframe rise, once again, to be the standard for light scout attack helicopter operations worldwide.”

The contract includes initial logistics support (ILS) for the aircraft, aircraft systems and ground support equipment.

MDHI said that the helicopters are part of a wider USD1.4 billion deal awarded by the US Army in September 2017 to deliver up to 150 MD 530F/G helicopters to allied air arms over a five-year period.

The KDF’s six armed MD 530F aircraft will also include an enhanced communication system that features the Harris RF-7850A tactical radio and the Rockwell Collins HF-9000D, said MDHI.

The Kenyan Army is procuring the MD 530Fs to replace the existing MD 500 platforms that are flown by the 50th Air Cavalry Battalion. Once fielded, they will be flown against al-Shabaab and in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

According to defense magazine IHS Janes, the deal was arrived at between the two nations and got the nod by the US congress in May last year.

For Kenya, the deal covers half of the 12 helicopters that were approved by the State Department in May 2017. Kenya Defence Forces based in sector two under Amisom command covering Middle and Lower Juba have been conducted aerial strikes targeting Al-Shabaab hideouts in coordination with Somali forces.

FENNEC HELICOPTERS

The new acquisition comes barely two weeks after the Kenya Defense Forces received nine Fennec helicopters from the United Arab Emirates. Defence Minister Rachael Omamo said the copters will be used ‘to support combat operations, search-and-rescue and medical evacuations, and escort heavy lift helicopters.”

The latest acquisition comes even as Kenya announced that it had cut down its defense budget amidst tough economic times in the East African country, but President Uhuru Kenyatta has stressed his administration’s commitment to win its war against the Al-Shabaab militants.

Kenya, has in recent years suffered deadly attacks from the Al-Shabaab militants who are demanding withdrawal of Kenyan troops from the Horn of Africa war ravaged nation.

Kenya has consistently upgraded its military capabilities in recent years, raising its spending on the armed forces in 2016, more than that of neighboring Ethiopia and Uganda combined, according to a global report.

Kenya has already acquired eight Bell Huey II helicopters from the United States and a donation of two second hand AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters from Jordan, its long time arms seller.

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