Uncertainty still clouds controversial Kenyan Air Tractor contract


The US government is yet to approve the sale of 12 armed Air Tractor aircraft to Kenya as IOMAX and a US congressman continue to dispute the proposed sale.

The contract, submitted to the US Congress for approval in January, seeks to provide the Kenyan air force with weapons to fight al Shabaab in neighbouring Somalia. However, the contracting of L-3 Technologies has been vehemently opposed by US Congressman Ted Budd who said the contract was awarded secretively and without going through open tender processes.

Further, he said at $418 million, the L-3 package for up to 12 Air Tractor AT-802L and two AT-504 trainer aircraft, weapons and technical support was hugely inflated and awarded to a contractor with no manufacture or conversion experience on the type of aircraft.

Budd said IOMAX, which never submitted a bid although it has previously supplied armed AT-802 aircraft to the UAE, could supply the same package at a much lower cost. Budd’s congressional district falls in the same area as IOMAX’s headquarters.

On Wednesday last week, L-3 Technologies apparently reduced the price of the package and added some new components to the bid.

On Friday, IOMAX said it could provide Kenya with ‘superior’ aircraft, weapons, technical support and program management at a cost of $237 million, which is $181 million lower than the contract ceiling of L-3 Technologies, reports Kenya’s Daily Nation.

The Kenyan government can exercise options that include accepting the offer, negotiating for better terms or pulling out of any deals with L-3 Technologies. Apart from IOMAX, the Kenyan government is considering acquiring Archangel aircraft at discounted prices from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Kenyan air force officials reportedly visited the UAE last week to conduct first-hand evaluation and test-flights of the aircraft. IOMAX and the UAE are understood to have offered to deliver the aircraft within six months of a sale agreement. L-3 Technologies would take up to two years to deliver because it does not build the aircraft.

Addressing the US House of Representatives last week, Congressman Budd said L-3 Technologies had won the Kenya contract due to ‘political favouritism’ involving the ‘Big Safari,’ a secretive US Air Force group and Washington-based ‘political class’ that enriched itself on insider deals like the Kenya-L-3 Technologies contract.
“The defence contractor chosen to fulfil the sale does not make this type of aircraft. They have never done it before. In fact, there’s an extra $130 million built into the costs of this deal, just for them to design a whole new airplane. Nobody got a chance to bid for it.
“Nobody knew about it except the company that got it, and the bureaucrats involved. You know the right people, have the right lobbyists, you get awards like this from the federal government without competition. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make the product, they will give you some extra money to design it from scratch,” Budd said.