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Kenya Air Force

The Kenya Air Force is the second ranking service in the pecking order of the Defence Forces. In addition to its core functions and roles, the Kenya Air Force contributes to wider National objectives in many ways, namely, aid to civil authority; community service; sports; education; environmental issues; children issues; among others.

On 1st June 2004, the Kenya Air Force celebrated its 40th anniversary. The celebration was attended by H.E the President and C IN C Hon Mwai Kibaki and provided a rare opportunity to reflect on past and present performance and achievements and to map out the way forward for the service. The Kenya Air Force celebrated her Golden Jubilee on 4 June 2014 which was graced by HE the president and C IN C Hon Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady HE Margaret Kenyatta.The ceremony was attended among them the retired generals.

Shortly after attaining independence in 1963, the Kenya government sought assistance from Britain to form an air force to complement the Kenya Army. Subsequently on May 19, 1964, Group Captain Ian Sargenson was seconded to the Royal M Force (RAF) Eastleigh and appointed commander designate. Royal Air Force Eastleigh was renamed Kenya Air Force. On June 1, 1964, the Kenya Armed Forces Act Cap 199 was enacted paving way for the formation of the Kenya Air Force. Recruitment of qualified young Kenyans and subsequent training in UK in flying, engineering, supplies and general administration was essential for capacity building.

To cater for the increased requirement for indigenous pilots, a flying training unit was established at Eastleigh with a planned output of ten pilots per year. The unit was equipped with six Chipmunk and three Beaver aircraft for training purposes. In tandem with the flying training unit for aircrew, a ground-training unit was established to train technical manpower for the expanding Air Force. Eighty technicians were produced annually.

In pursuance of its primary and secondary mission, the Kenya Air Force is organized into operational bases, forward operating bases and a technical training college. Moi Air Base is the transportation base while Laikipia is a fighter base. The bases are equipped with appropriate equipment and human resources to carry out their assigned roles. The force's 29 combat aircraft were based mainly at Laikipia Air Base (known as Nanyuki Air Base until after the coup attempt), and Moi Air Base near Nairobi (previously known as Eastleigh), but aircraft also had access to most of the more than 200 other airfields and landing strips scattered throughout the country. Air force headquarters was located at Moi Air Base.

On 25 February 1974 the Kenya Air Force experienced expansion with the opening of the Nanyuki Air Base as the main fighter base while KAF Eastleigh remained the main transport base. The strikemaster jet fighters were subsequently relocated to the newly formed KAF Nanyuki in June the same year. In the same year, the Air Force acquired the Hunter aircraft as its first-ever combat jet aircraft which were subsequently deployed at KAF Nanyuki. In October 1979, Forward Operating Base (FOB) Wajir was opened for operations while FOB Mombasa and FOB Lokichoggio were established in 1986 and 1992 respectively to extend KAF operations. In 1981, KAFTU was reorganized to form the Kenya Defence Forces Technical College (DEFTEC) as the main technical training college for the Kenya Defence Forces.

The service acquired a new face in 2000 following the integration of women in the Kenya Air Forceas officers and servicewomen after the disbandment of the Women Service Corps (WSC).

Led by British officers and technicians and equipped with nine British-donated Chipmunk trainer aircraft, the KAF was officially inaugurated in June 1964. During the 1960s, African personnel steadily replaced the British (including pilots), and the force's equipment was gradually upgraded. Most technical and flight training was performed inside the country with some assistance provided by British and American training teams and by representatives from companies involved in selling equipment to Kenya. Student pilots progressed from basic training in Scottish Aviation Bulldogs to advanced training in the Hawks and Strikemasters.

The 1982 Coup Attempt

The abortive coup attempt in Kenya on 01 August 1982 by the short-lived "People's Redemption Council," led by noncommissioned officers of the Kenyan Air Force (KAF) received extensive popular support in Nairobi, Mombassa, and western Kenya, before it was defeated by forces loyal to the government. The mass support for the insurrection was the result of a worsening economic crisis, regional-ethnic tensions, open strugqles over land allocation, and deteriorating relations between the government and the University of Nairobi.

Without an indigenous support base, the postcolonial state is inherently unstable and vulnerable to powerful local interest groups, among which the military are particularly prominent. Among the grievances expressed by members of the KAF in 1982 were low salaries, neglect of servicemen by senior ranks, opposition to the one-party state, and the preventive detention of suspected dissidents. Spte Hezekiah Ochuka (29) and Sgt Pancras Oteyo Akumu (33). Both were found guilty and sentenced to death alongside three Corporals and a Sergeant.

On 12 August 1982 Major General Kariuki was relieved of his appointment, tried by a court martial and sentenced to four years imprisonment on 18 January 1983. The coup attempt led to the disbandment of the Kenya Air Force and its renaming to 82 Air Force with Major General Mohamoud Mohamed being appointed Commander. Also renamed was KAF Eastleigh and KAF Nanyuki stations to Moi and Laikipia Air Bases respectively. Others changes included the disbandment of GADU, change of Air Force uniform, flag and motto - from Twatumika Tukiwa Angani to Tuko Imara Angani.

Before the abortive coup, the air force was regarded as one of the best in Black Africa, but the upheavals since then, for the time being at least, undercut its quality. Although few pilots were implicated in the dissident action and no aircraft were damaged, most of the KAF's mechanics and specialists were dismissed from the service. To replace them, the military leadership recalled reservists and transferred mechanics and technicians from the army. Unfamiliar with air force equip ment, they moved quickly into the service after intensive courses of one or two months, and maintenance suffered.

Whereas before the attempted coup the KAF could sometimes achieve an aircraft operational rate of 85 percent (although it was usually much lower), reports indicated that in the months after the disorder the operational readiness rate had slipped to less than 50 percent. As a result, British and United States assistance in training new technicians had increased, but the process of rebuilding the force was expected to take years.

On 27 February 1986, Dedan Gichuru, now a Major General was appointed for the second time as the 7th Air Force Commander a post he held up to 10 May 1989 when he retired from the service. He handed over to Major General D K Wachira. It was during Major General Wachiras time that the 82 Air Force reverted to it former name - The Kenya Air Force.

Before the 1982 coup attempt the KAF was divided into the Flying Wing, the Technical Wing, and the Administrative Wing. The Technical Wing was responsible for the maintenance and servicing of aircraft and communications equipment, while personnel, supply, and housekeeping functions came under the Administrative Wing. Operations were centered in the Flying Wing, of which one fighter-bomber squadron, one light strike squadron, two transport squadrons, and one training squadron were the main operational units.

Army officers and technicians led by Lieutenant General Mohammed played a prominent role in the restructuring of the KAF, and it was expected after the coup that it would be rebuilt to its pre-1982 strength of 2,000 men.

Recent Operations

Over the decade from 1988 and 1998, the international community, in particular the United States, came to realize the stability and strategic position of Kenya with regards to humanitarian operations in the region, as well as its role as "peace negotiator" to its war-torn neighbors. Indeed, all humanitarian operations into Southern Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Zaire have used the Kenya port of Mombasa, Mombasa International Airport, Nairobi International Airport, and Wajir and Lockichoggio airfields as staging points, operating bases, or controlling centers.

Kenya handled more than 690 missions related to humanitarian operations in the region and played host to air forces and civilian aircraft from 32 countries including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zimbabwe. The aircraft based their operations in Mombasa, Nairobi, Wajir, and Lokichoggio or refueled at either Nairobi or Mombasa International Airports, or simply obtained clearances to overfly the Kenyan airspace to various destinations in Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Zaire.

Besides aircraft parking or handling, Kenya has hosted aircrews, troops, and officials involved in humanitarian operations in the region in its hotels and at Kenyan military bases. Embassy officials and their families evacuated from war-torn neighboring countries have found safety in Kenya. The same is true for the thousands of refugees and displaced persons who fled to Kenya. Had it not been for Kenya's understanding of humanitarian issues, the rescue of Israeli passengers from Entebbe in 1976 would perhaps not have been possible. Kenya's participation in humanitarian operations stems from its own fair share of suffering from frequent droughts and famines,

The Kenya Air Force (KAF) was instrumental in the 2014 incursion into Somalia, bombing Al-Shabaab camps along the route to Kismayu, the ultimate destination, to declare the mission successful.

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