KENYA ARMY ACQUIRES RUSSIAN GUNSHIPS - Simon Githae reports from Nairobi
IN A swift move to upgrade the Kenyan Defence Forces’ ground attack capabilities, the Kenyan Army’s 50th Air Cavalry Division recently acquired three Mi-28 ground attack helicopters from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s sole
state intermediary export and import defence-related agency.
The Air Cavalry Division has been instrumental in destroying Al Shabaab capabilities by conducting accurate attacks on enemy troops and rescuing ground forces.
The three helicopters were assembled in Kenya by the team of Russian engineers assisted by their Kenyan counterparts. They will then be tested as Kenyan pilots get type training flying the lethal attack helicopters before being deployed to assist in the Linda Nchi (Protect the Country) mission in Somalia.
Bristling with guns and missile launchers, the Russian Mi-28 shown here is similar to those which have been purchased by Kenya to combat the
threat of terrorist attacks across its border with Somalia.
The Mi-28 is an all weather two-seat anti-amour attack helicopter armed with a pair of missile racks with B-13L rocket pods with a capacity for five S-13 rocket missiles. It has a 30 mm chain gun with rocket options that include two B-8 rocket pods with a 20 S-8 rocket missile capacity. The attack helicopters which NATO refers to as “Havoc”, were acquired at a cost of US$15-million each. They will join the Embakasi-based Air Cavalry Division fleet which includes four Chinese-made Z9WE attack helicopters. The Z9WE is an anti-armour attack helicopter manufactured
by the Chinese Harbin Aircraft Industry Group.
The Kenyan Army also received eight BRDM reconnaissance vehicles from Rosoboronexport. These vehicles have a
front arc of protection against 12,7 mm rounds of artillery shell splinters. It is armed with a remotely controlled 30 mm cannon.
The Kenyan Defence Forces’ action to tame the dreaded Al Shabaab, began in November last year. Its aim is to dismantle the terrorist network in Somalia which has threatened Kenya’s security and key
industries like tourism. The Kenyan Air Force has been working to open up the Somalia territory and dismantle key installations of the terrorists’ network such as training bases, communication and command posts.
The air force’s North American F-5 fighters have been leading the strike force. The fighter fleet was expanded last year when 14 F-5 jets were acquired from the Jordanian Air Force. The ground surveillance and support is provided by the fleet of Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma and Mi-17 helicopters, while troop relief and transport is provided by the de Havilland DHC-5 Buffalo and Dash 8-100 aircraft. The Mi-28 helicopter gunships will thus
boost the ground attack capability especially when conducting air strikes in areas with a civilian population in Al
Shabaab territory as it will be important to destroy the terrorist’s installations without incurring civilian casualties. This is especially the case as troops move closer to capture Kismayu which has been the hub of the terror network.
The Kenya Air Force surveillance aircraft have also been supporting the role of the navy in monitoring vessel movements along the Kenya/Somalia coast to protect cargo ships from hijacking by the pirates allied to the Al Shabaab. The recent announcement by the Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda that it has merged with Al Shabaab, which had previously been linked with the Somali terror group, will mean the operation to dismantle the group may present new challenges. The Kenyan Defence Force has asked to work under the AU force, AMISOM, so as to streamline the various armed forces’ action aimed at eliminating Al Shabaab and bring law and order to the troubled country, which has not had a stable government since 1990.
Our Moscow correspondent reports that the Mi-28 is the latest development of the Russian gunships in service with the Russian Army. The round-the-clock Mi-28N version got a nick-name “Night Hunter” and the letter “N” in designation stands for night vision capability. The export version will be Mi-28E or Mi-28NE (“E” stands for export). The helicopter manufacturer is the Roston-on- Don based ROSTVERTOL Public Limited company, now a part of the Russian Helicopters Corp. It seems that Kenya has become the first export customer for Mi- 28 or at least one of the first.