Kenya steps up terror war with new copters


One of the two Bell Huey II helicopters delivered yesterday to the Kenya Air Forces. PHOTO | COURTESY

Kenya has received the last two of the eight Bell Huey II helicopters it ordered from the United States to strengthen its combat capabilities against terrorism in the Horn of Africa. 

The helicopters, six of which were delivered last December, are mostly used for deployment of troops to battlefields.

They are expected to bolster Kenya Defence Forces’ (KDF) capacity to combat Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants who have recently staged increased attacks in Kenyan towns of Lamu, Garissa and Mandera.

“These helicopters have the exceptional capacity to operate in hot and high-elevation environments, while being rugged enough to endure extended operations with minimal maintenance,” a statement from the American embassy said.

“They will reinforce the KDF’s air assault capability to deploy Kenyan Rangers and other quick reaction forces.”

The US embassy said the helicopters will also boost KDF’s capacity to deliver supplies to the front lines and speedy evacuations of wounded fighters.

The acquisition cost Kenyan taxpayers $106 million (Sh10.9 billion).

READ: US Congress demands Kenya arms deal details

READ: Kenya ranked East Africa’s most powerful military force

ALSO READ: US now clears sale of Sh26bn arms to Kenya

The delivery comes six months after Kenyan troops received a package of America-made spy aircraft ScanEagle at a cost of $9.86 million (Sh1 billion) to conduct real-time surveillance.  Also last month, the country received an undisclosed number of secondhand AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters from Jordan.

The country in January ordered a Sh43 billion arms package from the United States comprising 12 militarised air tractors, two trainer aircraft, machines guns, rocket launchers and guided bombs.

The sale was, however, put on hold after a congressman supporting Air Tractor’s rival manufacturer opposed it.

The US soon after in May cleared the sale of another arms cache to Kenya comprising 12 new America-made light attack helicopter gunships at a cost of Sh26 billion.

“Our military cooperation with Kenya is one of the deepest and most important security relationships for the United States in all of Africa.  We work to build our mutual security and peace throughout the region so that both of our countries are safer and more secure,” said US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec.