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Kenya Navy - Modernization

In 1983 the navy's inventory included three Vosper 31.4-meter patrol craft built for Kenya in 1966 as well as four slightly larger Brooke Marine patrol craft delivered in the mid-1970s. The latter group of vessels was initially armed with light 30mm and 40mm guns, but in 1983 they were being reequipped to carry Israeli-made Gabriel surface- to-surface missiles.

Because of high costs and expansion and modernization of the other services, the navy did not take delivery of any new vessels between 1975 and 1982. Kenya was forced in 1981 to cancel a scheduled purchase of Vosper Thornycraft 56-meter missile-equipped patrol craft. Two years later, however, the navy was again engaged in discussions with Vosper Thornycraft and Liirssen to purchase new vessels. The main naval base was located in Mombasa, one of the largest and finest ports in the Indian Ocean region. In 1978 indigenous repair capabilities were significantly enhanced upon completion of the 18,000-ton Mombasa dry dock.

As Kenya needed to provide a secure passage for ships passing through its waters, it acquired two Shupavu class large patrol boats (the Shujaa and Shupavu) from Spain in 1997 to replace and supplement its older designs. They are armed with 76 and 30 mm guns and are used to deal with armed threats, such as pirates. However, the 480 ton vessels have had range, serviceability and sea handling issues that limit deep water operations.

The KNS Jasiri (Kiswahili for bold) offshore patrol vessel was ordered in 2003 at a cost of Shs4.1 billion (USD$52 million). It was supposed to be delivered in August 2005 did not arrive due to a contractual dispute between Kenya and contractor Euromarine Euromarine (with Spanish shipbuilder Astilleros Gondan as subcontractor). Its purchase was tied to questionable procurement tenders that came to be known as "Anglo Leasing" projects and which were exposed by whistleblower and former top government operative John Githongo.

The Kibaki government was unwilling to make transparent and act decisively on the findings of an audit of 18 large, security-related procurement deals begun in the Moi era but inherited by the NARC government in mid-stream, many under the purview and then-Minister of National Security (and later Minister of Transport) Chris Murungaru, widely seen as the NARC's corruption kingpin. Following preliminary investigations by former anti-corruption czar John Githongo in 2003 and 2004, the GOK under the leadership of the Finance Ministry froze payments on the 18 suspect deals, which are believed to have followed a similar pattern to the Anglo-Leasing scam: identification of often non-essential but big-ticket, security-related projects by a small network of private businessmen working with senior insiders in government; secretive procurement processes cloaked under the guise of national security; and massive overpayment for goods and services received - if goods and services are received at all.

One such scam among the 18 is the acquisition by the Kenyan Navy of a frigate being procured from a firm called Euromarine, which in turn contracted construction to Spanish shipbuilders Astilleros Gondan SA Shipyard. The existence of the ship tender was the subject of rumors for months after the Anglo-Leasing scandals broke, but was not confirmed until February, 2005 by the Kenyan Department of Defense (KDOD). KDOD vehemently denied any irregularities in the tender, which it claimed was competitive and proper. This, however, is not the case.

Subsequent credible reports have the ship being delivered to Kenya as a civilian vessel that will require expensive military retrofitting later, fueling suspicions that the purchase price was vastly inflated. Further, reporting in other channels puts veteran corrupt businessman Anul Perera in the middle of the deal, though he is now frustrated that payments are not being made. The internal audit of the frigate deal found that the country was not "buying air," i.e. that the ship actually exists, but that the purchase price (believed to be around $51 million) is four times what it should be. Payments on the contract remain frozen, but that the GOK faces a quandary because it is contractually obligated to pay.

When the vessel finally entered service, it gave the navy an ability to operate at the extremities of the continental shelf. KNS Jasiri was delivered to the Kenyan navy on 29 August 2012. The controversial 4.6 billion shillings vessel which arrived the Mombasa port , but was kept out of the public eye till the official unveiling on. The vessel came in at a time when the country is fighting terrorism with troops in Somalia to curb the somalia Based Al Shabaab and restore peace in the war torn country.

In May 2009, the KNAV Commander stated that official approval to form the KSBU was forthcoming and requested that SOCAF develop a plan to create an initial operational capability over the next two years. The unit would consist of up to eight seven-man Defender crews, a maintenance support cell, and a small headquarters and logistics support element. The total size will be approximately 100 personnel. Graduates of the CMSI course comprise the pool of candidates for the unit. The goal for FY10 was to train the 28 operators and six maintenance technicians required to employ the inventory of four 25-foot Defender class response craft.

By 2011 the navys new charter was to establish two fleets. An open/deep water fleet and an inshore / coastal guard fleet. The deep water fleet would compose of missile boats while the inshore fleet would consist of gun boats. New boats have to be procuring to manifest this charter. And it has been decide that all existing boats be assigned to inshore duties.

It was reported as of 2001 that two refurbished crafts of +1500 ton displacementd with ZW-9 capabilities would be procured. Other planned acqusitions included Harambee II (ex French navy P690 Rieuse from Runion) and Madaraka II?? (ex French navy P683 Boudeuse Due from Runion). By 2012 the Kenya Navy comprised:

  • 1x Jasiri class offshore patrol vessel (1,400 tons, 85x13 meters wide, maximum speed 28 knots (50 km/h), crew 60-81)
  • 2x Shupavu Class large patrol boats offshore patrol vessels (Armed with a 76mm and a 25mm or 30mm gun. However, these 480 full load ton vessels have had range, serviceability and sea handling issues that limit deep water operations).
  • up to 6 inshore patrol vessels (incl. 2x Nyayo class vessels built in Britain by Vosper Thornycroft, 56.7 meters long, displacement approximately 450 tons, maximum speed 40 knots, crew of approximately 45)
  • 12 support vessel (incl. patrol boats, landing ship, tugs)

It was reported that the Kenyan Navy had recently acquired the former French Navy P400 class La Rieuse patrol vessel . La Rieuse now KNS Harambee II has a crew of 29 and can stay at sea for 15 days. The ship can also ferry 20 people, and up to 60 for short periods in calm seas. Armament includes a 40 mm gun, 20 mm gun and two 7.62 mm machine guns.

Two Kenya Navy warships, KNS Umoja and KNS Nyayo, underwent refurbishments and mid life refits in 2011 at the La Spezia shipyard near Genoa in north-eastern Italy. The refit saw them lose their surface-to-surface missile (SSM) systems and effectively reduce the vessels to a patrolling configuration. The Nyayo class vessels are fast attack craft built in Britain by Vosper Thornycroft and delivered in 1988. They are 56.7 metres long, with a displacement of approximately 450 tonnes each and can reach a maximum speed of almost 40 knots and accommodate a crew of approximately 45.

Fincantieri replaced a third of the structures on each of the two vessels and rebuilt the hulls. Work was also done on the propulsions systems, propellers, electrical equipment, furnishings, installations and floorings. Fincantieri had received orders from the Kenya Navy in 2008 after beating firms from the UK, Holland and South Africa for the exercise on the Kenya Navy vessel. The KNS Nyayo and KNS Umoja patrol ships returned in August 2011 from two and a half year refurbishment in Italy.

In 2014 Fincantieri announced plans to build a shipyard in the Kenyan coast to supply new naval vessels to the emerging markets and those existing in the African and Middle East regions. The ship-builder will also provide maintenance-repair-overhaul (MRO) services to African and Middle Eastern customers. Fincantieri is building the Mombasa naval vessel yard to serve these emerging markets and meet the already high demand for defense systems for governments combating piracy besides the naval vessels.

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