Kenya Army acquires Fennec helicopters from UAE

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The Cabinet Secretary for Defence Ambassador Raychelle Omamo and Commander KAF Major General Francis Ogolla received the helicopters at the Laikipia Air Base, Nanyuki.

By Glenna Nyamwaya

The Kenya Air Force (KAF) has added nine Eurocopter AS350 Fennec Helicopters to its fleet from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Cabinet Secretary in charge of Defence Ambassador Raychelle Omamo presided over the reception and commissioning ceremony for the aircrafts that was held at the Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki.

Omamo expressed her gratitude to the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan for giving Kenya the opportunity to receive the helicopters and other assorted spare parts from his government. “Indeed this comes at a much needed time when our country is engaged in multi-fronts in pursuit of peace and security along our borders and in the region. The resources required in security operations are often many and can be very expensive,” Omamo said.

“To this end, the Government of the Republic of Kenya acknowledges with appreciation this kind of gesture by His Highness,” she added. The CS noted that the utility of the helicopters is not only limited to support the security operations but that they are equally suited for combat search and rescue, casualty and medical evacuations as well as combat air escort for heavy lift helicopters.

She assured UAE officials present at the handing over ceremony that the helicopters will be put to good use and will make a difference in Kenya’s capabilities in efforts against Somalia-based al Shabaab militant group. “The cooperation between the two countries and indeed the Kenya Defence Forces recognizes the fact that peace and security cannot be achieved and maintained by a single country or military.

It is through cooperation and sharing of resources and information that war on terror and other vices that fuel insecurity can be won,” the CS added. Kenya Air Force Commander Ma jor General Francis Ogolla who was present at the occasion acknowledged the opportunity given to the service in receiving the Fennec helicopters.

“The helicopters have come at such a time when we most needed them in our operations both in the country and beyond,” he said. The UAE delegation at the handing over ceremony included the UAE Ambassador to Kenya Khalid Khalifa Abdullah Rashid Al Mu’alla and Colonel Jamal Alhababi from the UAE Joint Aviation Command, among other senior officers. The Eurocopter AS350 is a single-engine light utility helicopter originally designed and manufactured in France by Airbus Helicopters.

This model of helicopter is operational with a number of armies across the world including the Singapore Armed Forces, Thailand Army, Australian Army, Brazilian Army and Air Force, the Danish Army, French Army and the UAE Army. Kenya becomes the first African country to own this kind of combat helicopters, which entered the market in 1990 and were received by the UAE from Airbus in 2008. The Fennec helicopter is capable of anti-tank operations, air-to-air combat, ground support, utility transportation role and training missions.

It can also be pre-fitted with guns and rocket launchers. Over the years, Kenya Air Force (KAF) has been acquiring new helicopters to bolster its operations. It is revealed that Kenya ordered three Leonardo C-27J Spartan transport aircraft from Italian firm Leonardo at a cost of Kshs 20 billion in 2017, with deliveries expected in 2019. The transport aircrafts are expected to replace the ageing fleet of De Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalos that have been serving the military forces. According to National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, Kenya has taken two loans amounting to Kshs 22.6 billion to pay for the C-27Js and the helicopters.

“The two loans obtained from Italian bank UniCredit Spa bank in December 2017 will become due for repayments in June 2019 and will mature in 10 years’ time,” Rotich said. Kenya remains the region’s top military spender, with more than Kshs 96.35 billion in 2017, up from Kshs 93.31 billion in the year 2016. This new acquisition comes a few months after the KAF requested the purchase of 12 MD 530F helicopters from the United States, at a proposed cost of Kshs 25.3 billion including weapons, ammunition and support.

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