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Photo Courtesy; One of the six Bell Huey helicopters that the Kenya Defence Forces received from the US, December 2, 2016

It is barely a week after the Alshabaab IED explosion, and an unconfirmed number of Kenya Defence Forces(KDF) soldiers were reported dead following a helicopter crash in Boni Forest, Lamu County on Tuesday.

In a statement issued by Strategic Communication Director Brigadier, Zipporah Okoth, the Kenya Airforce Helicopter crashed at the time the soldiers were doing an intensive patrol within the county, where the team was pursuing Al Shabaab militants through operation Amani Boni after the parliament authorized the operation five years ago. According to the statement issued it was clear that there were no survivors.

“The Leadership and the entire KDF fraternity console with the families. A Board of Inquiry has been constituted and dispatched to the scene to establish the cause of the crash,” the statement added.

The chopper was only seven years old and was among 12 Bell Huey helicopters delivered to Laikipia Air Base in December 2016, after American aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopters was awarded a contract to produce eight Huey IIs for the Kenya Air Force.


Photo Courtesy; Helicopter crash in
June 2018

A similar helicopter registration KAF 1503 belonging to the same fleet had crashed on 27 June 2018, less than two years after delivery. There were no fatalities, but the aircraft was written off.

On July 13, 2020, an MD530F Cayuse Warrior Combat Helicopter belonging to the Kenya Army crashed at Kathyoko Machokos killing two pilots. The helicopter was only five months old and was among 6 helicopters delivered to the KDF on Feb 18, 2020.

They were part of the 150 MD530F model ordered by the US Army under a 5-year $1.4B contract for allies and partner countries. Kenya was to receive 12. The MD 530F is a multipurpose light attack and reconnaissance helicopter manufactured by McDonnell Douglas of the US.

Two months ago on July 20, 2023, A Eurocopter AS 550C3 Fennec registration 1704 belonging to the Kenya Air Force crashed after it struck a tree at Chemolingot, Tiaty West, Baringo. Two crew members sustained injuries and the other two occupants were not injured.

The helicopter, manufactured by French Airbus Helicopters, was only five years old and was among eight similar helicopters acquired by the KDF from the United Arab Emirates military and delivered on September 6, 2018. The AS 550C3 is a lightweight, multipurpose military helicopter.


Photo Courtesy

What are the odds that a military helicopter will crash?

There are many causes that can contribute to this incident; inclement weather, Inexperienced pilots, and Air Traffic Controller errors just to mention a few.

But the main reason most helicopters crash is Inadequate maintenance. Leaving Kenyans to question; If this is what is killing our soldiers. How often does the Air Force do a proper maintenance check for the helicopters? Could the crash have been prevented if someone had actually done their job?

The question of whether Kenya is being sold substandard helicopters or is poor maintenance arises from the rate at which military helicopters (some of them still very new) are falling from the sky.

It takes months before the board of inquiry concludes its investigations on what really happened that caused the crash but what happens after the results are out? Does the Air Force implement the recommendations provided by the Board?

If the results come out that the crash was due to faulty parts in the aircraft will the contract with the manufacturers be terminated or will the military just brush it off?

This incident underscores the significance of regular maintenance and thorough checks on aircraft to ensure their airworthiness. Helicopters and other aircraft utilized by defense forces and government agencies play a vital role in various operations, and their reliability and safety are essential for the overall success of missions and security endeavors.

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