Kenyan AT-802 decision postponed to mid-September


Kenya is still to decide on whether or not to proceed with the purchase of armed AT-802 aircraft from the United States, and has until mid-September to make a decision, after the original June 2017 deadline expired.

This is according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), which said in a report published on 5 September that it had found nothing untoward in the January 2017 proposed sale of 12 AT-802L Longsword turboprops to Kenya, after conducting a investigation into the matter at the request of Congress.

Between April and September the GAO analysed the Letters of Request from Kenya, the Letter of Offer and Acceptance from the US government and other US Department of Defence documentation.

Kenya in December 2015 submitted the first in a series of requests to purchase six AT-802L aircraft to support the country’s anti-terrorism efforts. The requests included an option for additional purchases, so the US Air Force allowed for the purchase of up to 12 AT-802Ls. The offer was set to expire in June 2017, but Kenyan government officials did not want to agree to the offer until after their national elections, which took place on 8 August. For this reason, the Air Force authorized an extension, giving the Kenyan government until 16 September 2017 to make a decision. “As of August 30, 2017, the Kenyan government had not formally agreed to the offer,” the report said.

The GAO’s investigation into the proposed Kenyan deal was prompted by the US Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and congressman Ted Budd, who represents the North Carolina-based IOMAX, which is in direct competition with L3 and Air Tractor as it offers the Archangel aircraft. IOMAX alleges that L3 and Air Tractor misrepresented the AT-802L to secure the Kenyan deal and claim they can supply similarly configured aircraft at a much lower cost.

However, the GAO report stated that “Air Force, DSCA [Defence Security Cooperation Agency], and SCO [Security Cooperation Organisation] officials stated that Kenya conducted its own market research prior to selecting the AT-802L, which included attending air shows and consulting partner nations, and that it considered several aircraft models manufactured by several companies. According to an SCO official based in Nairobi, the Kenyans value the AT-802L’s simplicity of use, ease of maintenance, and long loiter time. When the Kenyans initially requested the AT-802L, they listed Air Tractor as the prime contractor, and L3 Technologies, Inc. (L3) as a subcontractor. In January 2017, the Kenyans sent a memorandum correctly identifying L3, rather than Air Tractor, as the prime contractor. DSCA and SCO officials explained that L3 is considered the prime contractor because it is the systems integrator for the AT-802L. We found that the events related to this FMS transaction are consistent with the standard FMS process.”

Stating that “we are not making any recommendations in this report,” the GAO concluded that “Air Force and DSCA officials stated that they did not have any reason to believe that Kenya improperly selected the AT-802L. The Air Force determined that Kenya made a reasonable choice when it selected the AT-802L aircraft.”

Kenya’s original request for six aircraft, support and two training aircraft was valued at approximately $243 million, while the cost for 12 aircraft under a total package approach was valued at $418 million in the notification to Congress.

The GAO noted that Kenya’s request was in support of its anti-terrorism efforts in fighting al-Shabaab along its borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. “In recent years, Kenya has experienced a number of violent attacks by al-Shabaab, including incidents at a shopping mall, a University, and, in January 2016, an attack on a Kenyan military base that resulted in the extensive loss of personnel. Kenyan officials have expressed an interest in addressing a capability gap that exists because their F-5 aircraft are not designed to support the air-to-ground missions that the anti-terrorism efforts entail. According to Air Force officials, F-5 aircraft are too fast for air-to-ground missions. Additionally, the aircraft are relatively old as they were first purchased in 1976.”

The state of the Kenyan contract remains uncertain, as Kenya’s Supreme Court annulled the 2017 presidential election results, and ruled the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission must conduct a fresh presidential election poll within 60 days of September 1. The electoral commission has announced the new poll will take place on 17 October, long after the 16 September deadline for the AT-802L contract expires.