Kenya Air Force

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Kenya Air Force
Jeshi la Anga la Kenya
Kenya Air Force
Kenya Air Force emblem
Founded 1 June 1964
Country Republic of Kenya
Branch Air Force
Part of Kenya Defence Forces
Command Headquarters Nairobi
Motto Tuko Imara Angani
Engagements Operation Linda Nchi
(16 October 2011 – June 2012) AU Mission in Somalia
(June 2012 – Present)
Air Force commander Major General Samuel Thuita
Roundel Roundel of the Kenyan Air Force.svg
Flag 100px
Aircraft flown
Fighter Northrop F-5
Helicopter Mil Mi-171, SA330 Puma, MD 500
Patrol Harbin Y-12
Trainer Bulldog, Short Tucano, Grob G 120
Transport DHC-5, Dash 8, Harbin Y-12

The Kenya Air Force (KAF) is the national aerial warfare service branch of the Republic of Kenya.

The main airbase operating fighters is Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki, while Moi Air Base in Eastleigh, Nairobi is the headquarters. Other bases include Forward Operating BAse (FOB) Mombasa (Moi International Airport), FOB Mandera, FOB Wajir & FOB Nyeri (mainly helicopters/small planes). The air force does not own attack helicopters: all of Kenya's fleet of armed helicopters are operated by the Army's 50th Air Cavalry Battalion.


The Kenya Air Force was formed on 1 June 1964, soon after independence, with the assistance of the United Kingdom.

Former aircraft in service included de Havilland Canada Chipmunks and Beavers (since 1974), six Hawker Hunters (bought from RAF, in operation from 1974–79), six BAC Strikemaster fighters (in operation from 1971, and 12 BAE Systems Hawks delivered in 1980. All these types have now been withdrawn.

From 1979–1982 President Daniel arap Moi used Northrop F-5 fighter jets to escort his flights in and out of the country; later commentators have pointed out that there was no threat justifying the waste of fuel and the difficult and complex requirements of the escort mission.[1]

After a failed coup by a group of Air Force officers on 1 August 1982, the Air Force was disbanded. Air Force activity was reconstituted and placed under tighter army control as the 82 Air Force. The Air Force regained its independent status in 1994.

On 10 April 2006 a KAF Harbin Y-12 crashed near Marsabit with 17 on board, of whom 14 died. It was carrying several local and national politicians; Bonaya Godana, a former minister, was among the casualties. The pilot in command was Major David Njoroge.

Since 1978, the F-5 has been the KAF's main air defense fighter. A total of 29 were delivered; 12 F-5E & 2 F-5F from USA, and 10 F-5E,3 F-5EM & 2 F-5F formerly in service with the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF). The ex RJAF aircraft were upgraded to F-5EM standard before being delivered to the Kenya Air Force. There was controversy over the purchase of the F-5s from Jordan, which were shipped to Kenya and assembled locally.[2] Currently a F-5 upgrade and procurement program is underway (10 F-5E, 2 F-5F, and 3 F-5EM from Jordan.[3]).


Current inventory

Mil Mi-171E of the Kenya Air Force seen at Wilson Airport
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
F-5 United States fighter 17[4]
Cessna 208 United States surveillance / light transport 1 on order[4]
Bombardier Dash 8 Canada VIP 3[4]
DHC-5 Canada utility / transport 5[4]
Harbin Y-12 China transport 11[4]
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility / transport Mi-171 2[4]
SA 330 Puma/IAR 330 France/Romania utility / transport 14[4]
Harbin Z-9 China utility 6[4]
MD 500 United States light utility 41[4] one lost to crash 2015[5]
Trainer Aircraft
F-5 United States conversion trainer F-5F 4[4]
Short Tucano United Kingdom trainer Tucano 51 12[4] licence-built variant of the EMB-312
Grob G 120 Germany trainer 120A 6[4]
Bulldog T1 United Kingdom basic trainer 5[4]

Former fleet

Aircraft armament

Air defence equipment

Anti-aircraft equipment:


The following officers have been in command of the Kenya Air Force:[6]

  • 12 December 1964 Group Captain Ian Sargenson Stockwell CBE DFC RAF[7]
  • 22 February 1967 Group Captain F Rothwell DFC TD RAF
  • 9 August 1971 Group Captain David John Edwards CBE AFC RAF[8]
  • 17 April 1973 Colonel Dedan Gichuru[9]
  • 27 June 1980 Major General P M Kariuki
  • 1982 Major General Mohamoud Mohamed (as commander of the 82 Air Force)
  • 27 February 1986 Major General Dedan N Gichuru (as commander of the 82 Air Force)
  • 10 May 1989 Major General D K Wachira
  • 28 June 1994 Major General N L Leshan
  • 1 December 2000 Major General S K Muttai
  • 27 November 2003 Major General J W Karangi
  • 10 August 2005 Major General Harold M Tangai
  • 13 July 2011 Major General Joff Otieno
  • 30 July 2014 Major General Samuel Ng’ang’a Thuita

See also


  1. "Escorting Moi with fighter jets".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The Nation, [1]
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 "World Air Forces 2015 pg. 21". Flightglobal Insight. 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Kenyan MD500 crash kills two". defenceWeb.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "I S Stockwell".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "D J Edwards".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hornsby, Charles (2012). Kenya: A History Since Independence. London/New York: I. B. Tauris. p. 231. ISBN 978-1-84885-886-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>, indicates Edwards tenure 1971–73, and Gichuru 1973–80.
  • Hoyle, Chris (9–15 December 2014). "World Air Forces Directory". Flight International. Vol. 186 no. 5468. pp. 24–55.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links