Kenya has acquired nine Fennec helicopters from the United Arab Emirates as it ramps up its security measures amid increased threats from Al Shabaab insurgents in Somalia.
Last week, Cabinet Secretary for Defence Raychelle Omamo and the Commander of the Kenya Air Force Maj-Gen Francis Ogolla received the helicopters at the Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki.
Ms Omamo said the aircraft would be used “to support combat operations, search-and-rescue and medical evacuations, and escort heavy lift helicopters.”
Fennec, an Airbus AS350, is a single-engine light utility helicopter originally designed and manufactured in France by Airbus Helicopters. It is capable of anti-tank operations, air-to-air combat, ground support, utility transportation role and training missions. It can also be pre-fitted with guns, rocket launchers.
The UAE Army Aviation Brigade and the Air Force Special Operations Command operate a number of AS550C3 Fennec helicopters. The country received the helicopters from Airbus in 2008.
Kenya will now join France, Singapore, Thailand, Australian, Brazil, Denmark and the UAE militaries, which are currently using the helicopter. It is also the first African country to own this kind of combat helicopters, which entered the market in 1990. The aircraft, with a grey paint scheme, were received in Nairobi early this month before they were moved to Nanyuki.
Kenya has also said it will be taking three C-27J Spartan transport aircraft from Italian firm Leonardo next year. Nairobi is understood to have procured the aircraft in late June at a cost of $200 million, having placed an order late last year. They are expected to replace the aging fleet of De Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalos.
Kenya has already received two AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters from the Italian firm, which are now being used by is police service.