US approves military helicopter sale to Kenya
The Unites States government has approved the sale of twelve American-made helicopter gunships to Keny, as the country seeks to further build its military in the face of growing insecurity.
While overall military spending is down by $600 million in East Africa, Kenya is taking steps to increase its arsenal with a deal for the helicopters believed to be worth $253 million. The US says the fleet of aircraft will help Kenya in the ongoing fight against militant group Al-Shabaab, which is based in neighbouring Somalia.
‘Light attack’ helicopters
Should the deal go through, it will make Kenya the owner of twelve newly-built Armed MD 530F Light Scout Attack Helicopters. The aircraft will replace the country’s ageing MD500 fleet that the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) has been using to support its ground troops.
The deal also includes a range of heavy artillery: 24 FN Herstal 12.7mm (.50cal) Heavy Machine Gun Pods (HMPs) and 400,000 rounds of ammunition; as well as 24 seven-tube M260 launchers for 70mm (2.75in) rockets, along with 4,032 M151 70mm rockets and 1,536 M274 70mm smoke rockets.
New weapons in fight against Al-Shabaab
The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) confirmed on May 2 that Kenya’s efforts against militant groups Al-Shabaab is a key factor in the deal.
In a statement, the organisation said the deal was agreed “in order to improve border security, undertake operations against the Somali-based jihadist group, Al-Shabaab, and as a troop contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).”
This comes as the US is stepping up its own participation in the fight against Al-Shabaab, making the deal a win-win for the United States. It gets to improve the effectiveness of Kenya’s military, thus reducing the burden on its own – and make money in the process.
However, there have been questions raised over the MD 530F’s suitability has previously been questioned by top pilots in Afghanistan.
It’s unsafe to fly, the engine is too weak, the tail rotor is defective and it’s not armoured. If we go down after the enemy we’re going to have enemy return fire, which we can’t survive. If we go up higher, we can’t visually target the enemy,” Colonel Qalandar Shah Qalandari told the New York Times in 2015. “Even the guns are no good.
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