South Korea donates MD500 helicopters to Kenya

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South Korea is giving Kenya 16 retired MD500 helicopters to be used on United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, with the first six being refurbished ahead of delivery to the East African nation.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of National Defence said the first six aircraft were on 21 December transported from Army Logistics Command’s General Maintenance Depot in Jinhae to the United States, in cooperation with the US State Department.

The defence ministry explained that the US plans to transfer the helicopters to Kenya as soon as maintenance is completed, and Kenya is expected to dispatch a helicopter unit with the United Nations.

“Previously, the US promised maintenance and transportation support for the 16 helicopters we promised to donate at the 2021 UN Peacekeeping Ministerial Meeting in Seoul, and in the joint statement at the ROK-US summit last April, we pledged to contribute to UN peacekeeping operations,” the Ministry of National Defence stated.

“This helicopter donation is in line with our willingness to contribute to promoting international peace and security ahead of our country’s inauguration as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the 2024-25 term. It is evaluated as a clear demonstration that cooperation between the two countries has expanded worldwide,” the Ministry continued.

“Our government plans to work closely with the United States and the United Nations to quickly complete the donation of the remaining 10 helicopters, while continuing to further expand its contribution to promoting international peace and security, including UN peacekeeping operations,” the Ministry concluded.

Korean Air’s aerospace division built some 280 MD500s under license between 1976 and 1984, but these are being replaced by newer aircraft, including the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) Light Armed Helicopter (based on the Airbus EC155 Dauphin). The first examples of the Light Armed Helicopter are expected to be delivered this year.

Kenya’s military already operates the MD500, with 40 delivered by the United States between 1980 and 1985, along with 2 100 TOW anti-tank missiles. These were recently augmented by six new MD530Fs delivered from the US in December 2019. They were acquired to assist with operations in support of the AMISOM mission in Somalia.