The Kenyan military has acquired six new US-made light attack helicopter gunships.
This is part of an initial order of 12 light attack and reconnaissance helicopters meant to enhance the firepower of the Kenya Defence Forces in the wake of sustained attacks by Al-Shabaab militants.
The helicopters were acquired from the United States through the US Foreign Military Sales programme.
The MD 530F planes are part of the $253 million (Sh25.5 billion) arms deal that Nairobi signed with Washington, and which got the United States Congress approval in May 2017.
The six helicopter gunships were handed over at an event in Nairobi attended by US Army Major General Michael Turello, the commanding general of the Combined Joint Task Force in the Horn of Africa.
US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter was also present.
Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe received the helicopters at the Joint Helicopter Command in Embakasi, Nairobi.
Gen Mwathethe appreciated the US Government for its sustained bilateral relations with Kenya.
“Among other capabilities, the integration of the MD 530F into our inventory will go a long way in enhancing our capacity to operate in the contemporary security environment, and we appreciate that this achievement is underpinned by cooperation with our allies,” he said.
The Commander Kenya Army, Lieutenant General Walter Koipaton, said the helicopters are a great asset for the Kenya Army and will be crucial in supporting the infantry units in the defence of the country against land-based aggression.
"The helicopters have come at a time when we most need them in our operations both within our borders and beyond. As you are aware, Kenya is currently involved in operations against terrorist organisations, notably the Al-Shabaab in Somalia, as part of Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and along the Kenya-Somalia border," said Lt Gen Koipaton.
The purchase of the helicopters, fixed with contemporary airborne and armament systems, is part of KDF’s modernisation programme funded by the Ministry of Defence.
The six helicopters commissioned are part of a larger consignment that will be delivered this year, officials said.
Under the earlier US deal with Nairobi, the 12 MD 530F weaponised helicopters were to be supplied together with 24 heavy machine gun pods, 24 HMP400 machine gun pod systems, 24 M260 rocket pods and 4,032 M151 high-explosive rockets.
Kenya will also get logistics support, training and technical assistance, spare parts and field service support and special assigned airlift mission flight delivery under the deal.
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