Wajir Crash Mounts Pressure On KDF To Address Old Helicopter Fleet

A video of a Kenya Defence Forces helicopter spiralling to the ground just 15 seconds after takeoff went viral on social media.

Villagers who had come to receive food donations from the KDF scurried to safety, before rushing to rescue the crew and passengers.

Following the deadly Wajir crash, Kenya Defence Forces now have only one surviving Mi-171E helicopter.

The Mi-171E is the export version of the Mi-8AMT, a Russian-made helicopter capable of operating in temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius.

The Kenyan air force purchased three Mi-171E helicopters in 2010 for $74 million to strengthen its capabilities in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the region.

The helicopters were assigned to the 53 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at FOB Nyeri, which is located 151 kilometres from Nairobi.

However, this is not the first time that a Kenyan air force Mi-171E helicopter has been lost.

A Mi-171E training helicopter crashed at Ol Tepesi in the Ngong area of Kajiado in 2019, killing two trainees and injuring several others.

A technical failure occurred during a routine training flight for the helicopter.

The crash has left Kenya’s air force with only one surviving helicopter of this type, which may have an impact on operational readiness and effectiveness.

The Kenyan air force has been facing challenges in maintaining and modernising its ageing helicopter fleet, which consists of various models, such as Pumas, an Mi-17, Huey UH-1Hs, AS550C3 Fennecs, AW139s, AS350 Fennecs, MD530Fs and C-27J Spartans.

Since the late 1990s, several Kenyan helicopters have been lost due to accidents, mechanical failures, or enemy fire.

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A UH-1H-II helicopter crashed and was written off in 2018. A Hughes MD50E helicopter crashed in 2020, killing both pilots.

In 2021, al-Shabaab militants in Somalia shot down an MD530F helicopter, killing all six people on board.

The Kenyan air force has been critical in assisting security operations in the country and region, particularly in the fight against al-Shabaab, a terrorist organisation that has waged a violent campaign in Somalia and Kenya.

Kenya’s air force has also participated in humanitarian missions such as delivering relief supplies to areas affected by drought, flooding, and conflict.

President William Ruto has allocated Sh338.2 billion to the security sector in his first budget as Head of State.

The money is divided among the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), National Police Service (NPS), National Intelligence Service (NIS), and Kenya Prisons Service (KPS).

KDF receives the lion’s share of Sh144.9 billion, followed by the National Police Service, which got Sh98.6 billion.

The NIS received Sh44.3 billion, while the Prisons Service received Sh31.3 billion.

KDF also recieves reimbursements for its fight against terrorism in Somalia.

Kenya received Sh6.9 billion from the European Union and its partners in the year ended June 2023.

This brings the total amount of money the country has received to Sh52.25 billion since it entered Somalia to fight al-Shabaab terrorists in 2011.

It is anticipated that East Africa’s most advanced military will seek to replace its ageing helicopter fleet as KDF engage in more efforts to mitigate El Nino damage.