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US approves Sh43 billion aircraft sale to Kenya

The US State Department has approved a Sh43 billion ($418 million) military aircraft sale and related support to Kenya. This is part of the US State Department’s more than Sh180 billion deals with UK, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, which will include air-to-air missiles and threat detection systems. The foreign military sales are pending Congressional approval. On Kenya, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said Monday the approval was for the possible sale of up to 12 Air Tractor AT-802L planes and two AT-504 trainer aircraft, a weapons package, technical support and programme management. ALSO READ: President Trump should continue from where Obama stops The converted cropdusters will aid Kenya in the fight against Al Shabaab. The prime contractor is L3 Technologies Inc, formerly known as L-3 Communications, at its Platform Integration Division, in Waco, Texas. The Air Tractors are more efficient and able to fly closer to conflict zones than Kenya’s aging Northrop F-5E fighters, according to the DSCA. “The platform maximises the Kenyan Defence Force’s close air support ability because it is a short-field aircraft capable of using precision munitions and cost effective logistics and maintenance,” the DSCA notice states. The type of planes to be acquired are agricultural aircraft that may also be adapted into fire-fighting or armed combat. The AT-802 carries a chemical hopper between the engine firewall and the cockpit and another one under the belly. This is the latest arms deal from the US that was started under President Barack Obama. ALSO READ: President Trump should continue from where Obama stops Last year, the US donated eight helicopters valued at Sh11 billion. US Ambassador Robert Godec handed over six Bell USA Huey II Helicopters to Defence Cabinet Secretary Rachael Omamo in an event that was held at Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki. “The extra two helicopters will be delivered by May 2017,” said Godec. The Bell rotorcraft were used in the Vietnam War in 1960s, but have now been upgraded to Huey II, which is an upgraded version of Bell UH-1H multi-mission, medium-lift helicopter, designed and manufactured by Bell Helicopter, a subsidiary of Textron. Kenya Air Force Commander Maj-Gen Samuel Thuita said the choppers have been improved from the original version to make them enhanced. “The Bell Huey II is a known platform in the aviation industry, and especially in military operations,” said Thuita. Experts in the aviation industry describe it as one that provides a flexible, economical, high performance medium helicopter solution. ALSO READ: Lessons learnt as country celebrates fallen KDF heroes' sacrifice The model – Bell UH-1H Huey – is a daily workhorse with an expansive cabin, providing multi-mission flexibility with a standard seating of 12 people. The aircraft combines commercial Bell 212 dynamic components with the reliable Honeywell T53-L-703 engine, leading to an increase in hover performance and efficiency in hot conditions. The aircraft will come with spare parts, special tools, an operator and maintainer training. Bell Huey II is highly efficient in missions such as troop transport into high altitudes, for medical evacuation in hot conditions or transport to and from remote areas. The aircraft can also be used in combat missions. Other features include rollover bulkheads, rupture-resistant fuel cells, wire strike protection and jettisonable crew doors. The Huey II has a useful load of 2200 kg, endurance of 2.6 hours and max cruise speed of 196km per hour. Kenya received a Sh1 billion arsenal from the US to boost the war against Al Shabaab. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), popularly known as drones, were delivered end of September 2016. KDF is replenishing its aging arsenal to fight terror threats from several groups.

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