The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have commissioned into service the six new MD 530F helicopters recently delivered from the United States.
Chief of the Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe presided over the commissioning ceremony on 23 January at the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) in Embakasi, Nairobi. The aircraft were delivered to Kenya in late December.
Speaking after receiving the helicopters from the US Government representative, Commanding Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Major General Michael Turello, Mwathethe said he appreciated the US Government for its sustained bilateral relations with Kenya in various sectors key of which is security.
“Among other capabilities, the integration of the MD 530F into our inventory will go a long way in enhancing our capacity to operate in the contemporary security environment, and we appreciate that this achievement is underpinned by cooperation with our allies,” he said.
Kenya Army Commander, Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) Walter Koipaton, said the helicopters are a great asset for the Kenya Army and will be crucial in supporting the infantry units in the defence of the country against land based aggression.
“The helicopters have come at a time when we most need them in our operations both within our borders and beyond. As you are aware, Kenya is currently involved in operations against terrorist organisations, notably the Al Shabaab in Somalia, as part of Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and along the Kenya-Somalia border,” said Koipaton.
“The six MD-530F helicopters are emblematic of the decades-long security partnership between Kenya and the United States. These helicopters are tangible examples of our joint commitment to the fight against terrorism, and Kenya’s willingness to invest in its own security,” US Ambassador Kyle McCarter said at the handover. “The United States is here to support the KDF’s ongoing modernization efforts and realize our mutual security objectives in the region.”
The US Embassy said the sale of the helicopters is representative of the US “total package approach” of the United States Foreign Military Sales programme, which includes not just the equipment but also a comprehensive spare parts and multi-year sustainment package to ensure the longevity of the aircraft.
According to the KDF, the purchase of the helicopters is part of its modernisation programme which is fully funded by the Ministry of Defence.
The Kenya Defence Forces requested 12 MD 530Fs valued at $253 million in May 2017 and on 27 September 2018 MD Helicopters was awarded a contract to deliver six MD530Fs to Kenya under a $1.4 billion award that also covers the supply of up to 150 armed MD530Fs/MD530Gs to US and partner nation military forces.
Powered by the Rolls-Royce 250-C30 650shp turbine engine, these aircraft feature an all-digital glass cockpit with tinted windows, ballistically tolerant crashworthy fuel system, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System (MCAS), 62 mm ballistic armour protection, FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods.
The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, in announcing the Kenyan contract in 2018, said the sale would advance Kenya’s efforts to conduct scout and attack rotary wing aircraft operations in support of their AMISOM mission in Somalia. “The MD 530F will also replace Kenya’s aging MD500 fleet, which is the current reconnaissance platform supporting Kenyan ground forces. This sale will significantly enhance the Kenyan Army’s modernization efforts and increase interoperability with the US Armed Forces and other partners in the region. Additionally, a strong national defence and dedicated military force will assist Kenya in its efforts to maintain stability in East Africa.”