Against a background of recent strenuous to modernise its armed forces, pictures appearing online this week seem to indicate the Kenyan Air Force may be receiving AH-1 COBRA attack helicopters, though the source is far from certain.
A single AH-1 has been seen in Kenyan markings, sporting legitimate Kenyan camouflage patterns and surrounded by troops apparently in Kenyan uniform. The aircraft appears to have been partially dismantled, possibly for transport. No details have yet emerged as to the timing or location (or purpose) of the photographs, which have fed speculation among observers of the African military.
The focus of that speculation has been the source of the aircraft. Records of US Foreign Military Sales and Excess Defense Articles transfers show nothing pertinent and conventional wisdom is that the source may be Jordan, which enjoys close military ties with Kenya since selling 15 F-5 aircraft to Nairobi a decade ago. Jordan received 16 AH-1 helicopters from Israel in 2015.
Kenya is currently taking delivery of eight UH-1 HUEYs from the US and earlier this year requested an FMS purchase of 12 MD530F helicopters at an estimated cost of $253 million, including weapons, ammunition and support. The helicopters – and presumably the COBRAs, should their induction into the Kenyan Air Force be confirmed – will be used to continue Kenya’s struggle against Al Shabaab militants in Somalia.