US government concealing details of sale of Air Tractor bombers to Kenya
US Congressman Ted Budd has accused the government of 'stone-walling' and refusing to release details about the planned sale to Kenya of 14 Air Tractor crop duster aircraft that will be armed and deployed to bombing duties in the war against Somali militant group Al Shabbab. By Oscar Nkala.
The US Army Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal has been embroiled in controversy since its approval and subsequent award to New York-based aerospace company L-3 Technologies in January, at a cost of US$418 million.
The deal involves the supply of 12 combat aircraft, two trainers, spares and accessories to the Kenyan Air Force. Congressman Budd has called for an investigation of the deal saying the Kenya government was likely to be prejudiced of up to US$181 million if the deal went ahead.
He has charged that the contract won by L-3 Technologies was never advertised for open tender. Further, Budd said L-3 Technologies has no history of building or converting the agriculturally-configured Air Tractors to the bombers sought by Kenya.
In various submissions, Congressman Budd said the only company qualified to deliver on the Kenyan contract was Iomax, which is based in his constituency, North Carolina.Iomax has previously supplied re-configured and armed Air Tractor aircraft to the United Arab Emirates, which has successfully deployed them in bombing raids against the Islamic State in Iraq and Libya.
Congressman Budd said he was 'concerned' over the failure to responded to his request for details of an amended offer sent to the Kenyangovernment by the US Air Force on March 30.
"On March 30, I asked for the offer the United States government had made to the Kenyan Ministry of Defence, just so we could make sure that everything was above board.
"That was 12 days ago. It's baffling to me why it would take so longto send an email. The stonewalling here from the US government is concerning," Budd said.
Reports from New York suggested that in the amended offer, L-3 Technologies had lowered the cost of the package and added other provisions which were not part of the agreement announced in January.Iomax has also submitted an offer to supply the 14 aircraft, spares and accessories at a cost of US$237.
The package cost is US$181 million lower that the contract won by L3 Technologies in January. There is no deadline for the Kenyan government to accept, reject or set new negotiation terms for the L-3 offer.
Kenya also has the option of acquiring the same aircraft package at a much lower cost from the UAE. Kenyan air force representatives have already visited the Gulf country and tested the aircraft.