Govt dithers about purchase of aircrafts from US firm

New York

The Kenyan government is now facing a decision on how — or whether — to proceed with its intention to buy a dozen armed crop-duster aircrafts and related items from US contractors.

There is no deadline for Kenya’s choice. It can accept the terms of an official offer made on Wednesday by New York-based L3 Technologies, or it can seek to negotiate better terms, or it can refuse to make any deal with L3.

The price and components of the weapons package now on offer from L3 have not been disclosed.

Neither the company nor the US government, which oversees arms deals in accordance with the Foreign Military Sales programme, has responded to Sunday Nation requests for release of that information.

The proposed Kenya-L3 deal carried a State Department-approved price tag of $418 million (Sh41bn) when it was outlined in January.

Sources say it is possible that L3 has lowered its price in response to criticisms by some members of the US Congress.

L3 may also be offering to include additional components in the package that were not included in the January outline.

Another military contractor, IOMAX USA, meanwhile indicated on Friday that it can provide Kenya with what it says is superior equipment at a total cost of $237 million (Sh23bn) — $181 million less than L3’s January offer.

Congressman Ted Budd, a vocal critic of the Kenya-L3 deal, says L3 does not even manufacture the type of aircraft Kenya is interested in purchasing for use in Somalia against Al-Shabaab.

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And Mr Budd pointed out in a speech on Wednesday in the US House of Representatives that US government officials did not consider IOMAX as a potential supplier.

“Nobody got a chance to bid,” Mr Budd told his congressional colleagues.

“Nobody knew about it except for the company that got it and the bureaucrats involved.”

IOMAX, which is headquartered in Mr Budd’s district in North Carolina, is the sole manufacturer of those planes, the Republican lawmaker said.

Mr Budd noted that 50 IOMAX Archangel aircraft are in service in combat zones in the Middle East where they “have dropped more than 4000 bombs on ISIS”.

Kenyan officials are understood to have traveled last week to the United Arab Emirates to conduct a first-hand evaluation of the Archangel aircraft that IOMAX has sold to the UAE.

During the visit, a Kenyan Air Force commander personally flew an Archangel to test its capabilities.

Kenya has the option of buying a dozen Archangels from the UAE at what a source described as an unspecified “discount” price.

Alternately, Nairobi could purchase new Archangels directly from IOMAX.

Under either of those scenarios, Kenya would take delivery of the aircraft in six months or less, IOMAX officials say.

It would take L3 two years to fulfill its sale because the New York company has not built the planes, according to IOMAX.

Kenyan officials in Washington and Nairobi have not responded to requests for comments on the L3 and IOMAX offers.

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