The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is set to receive six new choppers at Sh140 billion, which will raise the amount the government has spent on upgrading its air power in the last three years to Sh250 billion.
American firm MD Helicopters has announced that the US Army had contracted it to supply KDF with six MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters in what could be one of the most expensive acquisitions in the history of the country.
"We are pleased that MD Helicopters was selected to provide mentorship, maintenance expertise, and pilot and maintainer training to the Kenya Defence Forces," Ms Lynn Tilton, the firm's CEO, said in a statement posted on its website.
"Supported by the skilled men and women of the MD Helicopters team, our military operators have successfully flown hundreds of missions annually, maintaining operational readiness rates in excess of 90 percent. We welcome the KDF to the global MD Helicopters family and are committed to exceed the training, support, and performance expectations of both our US army and KDF customer," Ms Tilton added.
The choppers, which were ordered last year, are being acquired on "a five-year $1.4 billion Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract." IDIQ contracts, which are popular in engineering projects, provide for an indefinite supply of services and support over a definite period of time.
The contract, which became effective this month, will enable MD Helicopters to provide logistical support and training for KDF officers who will fly the choppers. They are already en-route to Kenya.
The helicopters will also have a US Army issued air worthiness release certification which allows for the potential deployment of various weapon systems.
According to MD Helicopters, the choppers can be used in reconnaissance and transport operations.
They can also carry out strikes, air medical services, search-and-rescue and fire-fighting missions.
"This contract has an initial period of performance through December 30, 2020.
"Transition training will take place at the MD Helicopters headquarters in Mesa, Arizona, while operations including field service support, armament, and gunnery training are scheduled for Laikipia Air Base," said the company. "The MD 530F Cayuse Warrior is a proven platform for light scout attack combat operations," it added.
The acquisition comes just months after the military bought a new helicopter, an Augusta Westland, at Sh4 billion for the presidential escort without any special fittings.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has started using the helicopter.
The helicopter is among three which the Kenya Air Force recently acquired.
The presidential escort model is said to have been acquired in January. It was manufactured by Italian company Leonardo Helicopters.
According to the firm, the "AW139 is a medium-sized, single main and tail rotor helicopter that is powered by two turbine engines and equipped with retractable landing gear."
It further states; "the AW139 surpasses all other intermediate helicopters in terms of cabin flexibility, safety, speed and comfort."
Customers of the AW139 also benefit from personalisation, which includes high quality furnishings, the company states. Last year, the military bought nine combat Fennec helicopters from the United Arab Emirates .
It is expected to receive three C-27J Spartan transport aircraft, acquired through a Sh20 billion bank loan.
The Spartans, which are ideal for transporting troops and equipment to and from bases, are expected to replace the four de Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffallos based at Moi Air Base, Mombasa.
Leonardo SPA, the Italian company, has since opened a subsidiary in Nairobi from where it has clinched deals to sell air traffic control systems to Somalia and South Sudan.
While appearing before the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year, former Treasury CS Henry Rotich was hard pressed to explain why the government was taking two loans worth Sh20 billion for the two C-27Js, and Sh6 billion for the Augusta Westland helicopters.
In 2017, Kenya requested 12 helicopters for KDF worth Sh25.3 billion. However, due to unexplained reasons the choppers were never delivered.