Kenya and Uganda will in coming months receive advanced military helicopters in an aircraft modernisation scheme to strengthen Amisom’s onslaught against Al Shabaab in Somalia.
Uganda will receive five Huey II helicopters from US supplier Bell by August in its biggest acquisition since 2012, when it bought six Su-30MK fighter jets from Russia at a cost of $179.6 million.
“We already have one of the helicopters in Amsterdam en route to Kenya for delivery, while the final order will follow soon after. We are also getting ready to deliver five to Uganda as well. They should arrive in the third quarter of this year,” Arnie Easterly, Bell Helicopters director for sales and marketing in Africa said during the Paris Airshow two weeks ago.
Last September, Bell Helicopters won the $87.6 million contract to supply Nairobi and Kampala with 13 helicopters and spares.
The two countries expect to use the equipment to boost their operations in Somalia, where they are fighting the Al Shabab militants under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) command.
Kenya received six of the Huey II helicopters in December last year, two last month and an unknown number of AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters from Jordan as part of its military partnership with Jordan, which saw its leader, King Abdullah II, visit Nairobi in September last year.
King Abdullah and President Uhuru Kenyatta, dressed in military fatigues, then witnessed both the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces and KDF perform a joint military exercise.
Kenya is also waiting to confirm the timelines for delivery of a dozen MD 530F armed light helicopters that it ordered in May, which has been approved by the US Army Security Assistance Command.
The aircraft, to be supplied by US-based MD Helicopters at a cost of $253 million include MD 530F “Cayuse Warrior” light attack helicopters, and 24 HMP machine gun pod systems, 24 M260 rocket launcher systems and assorted ammunition.
Col Joseph Owuoth, Kenya Defence Forces Spokesman, declined to comment on the delivery timelines and the performance of the ordered aircraft.
According to the United States Department of Defence’s foreign military sales contract with Bell, the deliveries should completed by the end of this year.
The EastAfrican understands that the US Army Security Assistance Command has already sent Kenya a formal letter of offer and acceptance.
The US Defence Security Co-operation Agency said the delivery would help modernise the fleet in order to improve border security and undertake operations against Al Shabaab militants.
Kenya, Uganda and Burundi contribute troops to Amisom.
“KDF is looking at replacing its ageing fleet of the more than three dozen MD 500 helicopters with the latest MD 530F. The ageing fleet is what have been using to for reconnaissance to supporting our ground forces.
These new copters have a better range, faster cruise speed and manoeuvrability,” The EastAfrican was told.
In December, Kenya received the first batch of the order, which is funded under the Kenya-US military co-operation agreement.
“The Huey II represent the US’s largest single security co-operation initiative ever undertaken in sub-Saharan Africa,” US ambassador Robert Godec said.
The Huey II helicopter is powered by a new Honeywell T53-L-703 engine, which enables it to have an improved hover performance in hot conditions, mirroring the joint forces; needs in Somalia.
“The Huey II is a daily workhorse with an large cabin providing multimission flexibility. It seats up to 15, providing troop transport into high altitudes, medical evacuation in hot conditions or transport to and from remote bases,” Bell says of the helicopters.
In May, Kenya’s military was ranked as Africa’s 11th most powerful force ahead of its Ugandan and Tanzanian counterparts, despite the neighbouring countries’ bigger personnel count.
Global Firepower, an agency that assesses the military strength of nations, ranked Kenya as the most powerful nation in the region based on its manpower, range of weaponry, logistical flexibility and budgets.
“Going beyond military equipment totals and perceived fighting strength, is the actual manpower that drives a given military. Wars of attrition favour those with more,” the study said.
The rankings show that Kenya’s has an arms stockpile of 76 battle tanks, 591 armoured fighting vehicles, 30 self-propelled guns, 25 towed artillery, 131 aircraft, 17 fighter jets and 61 helicopters.
Uganda’s weapons stock comprises 240 tanks, 43 aircraft, 1,060 armoured fighting vehicles and 26 multiple-launch rocket systems, which both Kenya and Tanzania currently lack.
Dar es Salaams’ arsenal includes 30 tanks, 150 armoured fighting vehicles and 30 aircraft.