in Defence / Features

Secret Spartans for Kenya

Posted 28 November 2018 · Add Comment

Kenyan Treasury Secretary, Henry Rotich, has revealed the previously undisclosed acquisition of two or three Alenia C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft and an undisclosed number of Agusta Westland AW139 helicopters (thought to be four). Jon Lake reports.

The revelations came in a report submitted to the parliamentary public accounts committee on June 26.
The acquisitions were reportedly made between November 2017 and February 2018, but have not been confirmed by Leonardo (the parent company of both Alenia and AgustaWestland).
Kenya’s Spartans will be delivered early next year and are expected to replace four de Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalos, based at Moi Air Base, Mombasa.
The Kenya Air Force transport element operates three de Havilland Canada DHC-8-103s, and has also received 12 Harbin Y-12 and Y-12-II light transports, though one of these crashed near Marsabit on April 10 2006. Two PZL M28s are reportedly on order.
The Kenyan C-27Js will be the first equipped with a new avionics suite that allows full compliance with new civil aviation regulations and military requirements. It has also been reported that these aircraft will receive unspecified modifications intended to make them more efficient and cost-effective.
The Spartan first flew on September 24, 1999 and was developed from the Alenia G.222/C-27A. It used the Rolls-Royce AE 2100 engine and Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules six-blade propeller, together with a fully digital MIL-STD-1553 systems and avionics architecture, and an updated cargo compartment.
The C-27J has a maximum payload of 11,500kg, though the normal payload is 9,000kg. The aircraft now has excellent ‘hot-and-high’ performance, as well as 30% lower operating costs than the G.222, 35% greater range and a 15% faster cruising speed.
The Spartan can carry up to 60 troops in high-density configuration or up to 46 paratroopers or 36 stretchers and six attendants.
Kenya is the fourth African customer for the C-27J after Chad, Morocco and Zambia. The aircraft has also been ordered by Italy, Australia, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Slovakia and the US Coast Guard for a total of 85 aircraft on order.
The number of AW139 helicopters covered by this order, and their destination, remains unknown. The reported cost would imply an order for four helicopters.
The Kenyan National Police Service Air Wing received two AW139s in June 2018, and had taken delivery of one AW139 (5Y-NPS) before that, in April 2016 (though this aircraft was lost in an accident in September 2016).
The new AW139s were delivered in two different configurations, 5Y-PEU configured for VIP use and 5Y-DIG for advanced mission operations.
The new order could be for the same customer. If so, they would be based at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, and used for public order policing, security and surveillance and VIP transport operations.
The Police Service Air Wing has grown rapidly, from a low point of three grounded helicopters in 2013 to 11 helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft today. It is in the midst of a major reorganisation, and is seeking to gain Kenya Civil Aviation Authority approved maintenance organisation (AMO) status in order to end its reliance on the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for maintenance and servicing.
At least two of the police’s older helicopters have been grounded, and the availability of the remaining AS350B3e, Bell 206L-4 and Mil Mi-17 helicopters is poor.
The new batch of AW139s could be destined for the air force. It currently operates a squadron of SA330 and Romanian-built IAR330 Pumas, and another equipped with Bell UH-1H-II Huey helicopters.
The primary operator of military rotorcraft in Kenya is the Army’s 50th Air Cavalry Battalion at Moi Air Base, which operates the Hughes/MD Helicopters Model 500MD, as well as Bell AH-1F Cobras donated by Jordan, Mil Mi-171Es and Changhe Z-9Ws.
Rotich told the Kenyan Parliament’s public accounts committee that the government had taken two loans to pay for the new aircraft: one for KSh20 billion ($20 million) to pay for the C-27Js, and a second one for KSh6 billion ($6 million) for the helicopters. The loans were advanced to the Kenyan Treasury by the Unitcredit Spa Bank – a private bank based in Milan – and will be repaid starting from June 11 2019, maturing on June 11 2029.
 

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