Bell Helicopters has concluded deliveries of UH-1H Huey II helicopters to the Kenya Air Force, with the last two of eight aircraft being handed over this week in what the US embassy in Kenya said is United States’ largest security cooperation programme in sub-Saharan Africa.
The final two Huey IIs were delivered to the Kenya Air Force on 19 July, the US embassy in Nairobi said. The first six were formally handed over at Laikipia Air Base on 2 December 2016 – in September last year the US Department of Defence announced that it had awarded Bell Helicopter a foreign military sales contract worth $52.1 million for the supply of an initial five Huey II helicopters and spares for Kenya.
US Ambassador Robert F Godec said, “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.”
The US embassy in a statement on 19 July said the Huey II helicopters will bolster the Kenya Defence Force’s (KDF’s) capacity to combat al-Shabaab, an effort that will bring more stability and peace to East Africa. “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. They will reinforce the KDF’s air assault capability to deploy Kenyan Rangers and other quick reaction forces. They will provide the KDF with the capacity to deliver much-needed supplies to the front-line and to help save the lives of troops with vital medical evacuations,” the statement said.
The US embassy added that it has provided over 11.5 billion KSH ($115 million) in military equipment and assistance to the Kenyan military in the past year alone.
At the beginning of May, Kenya requested the purchase of 12 MD 530F helicopters from the United States, at a proposed cost of $253 million including weapons, ammunition and support. The proposed MD530F sale, which would also include 24 HMP 400 gun pods, 24 M260 rocket launchers and ammunition, would support Kenya’s fight against al Shabaab militants in Somalia and its contributions to the UN/AU mission in that country.
However, Kenya is currently receiving an unknown quantity of second hand AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters from Jordan.
The East African nation is also seeking to acquire armed aircraft from an Air Tractor/L-3 consortium. The sale still has to be approved by the US Congress, which has put the Air Tractor sale on hold after opposition from a Congressman supporting Air Tractor rival IOMAX.
Uganda will also receive Huey II helicopters, after Bell was in September 2016 awarded a $34.5 million contract for five of the helicopters for Uganda.