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Queries raised over military choppers that have yet to fly

President Kibaki’s helicopter takes off at Kiganjo, Nyeri. The President uses the French-manufactured Puma helicopters that are reconfigured for VIP usage. Chinese Z-9 helicopters delivered in January have allegedly not flown. (Photo: Sunday Nation)

March 27, 2010, Nairobi -- Did Kenya buy defective helicopters from China? That is the question being asked by military engineers after it became apparent that eight Chinese choppers delivered to Nairobi in January have not been flown.

The helicopters were bought from a company that has previously supplied planes to Kenya.

However, the ministry of Defence said the helicopters had not been grounded but did not explain why they have not taken to the air three months after they were delivered.

“We wish to state that so far we do not have any Z-9 helicopters which are grounded,” the DoD spokesman Bogita Ongeri said in response to enquiries about the aircraft. But engineers at DoD said the military utility helicopters had never been airborne since they were delivered in January.

Sources at DoD said several of the eight helicopters were meant to beef up the VIP fleet that is usually at the disposal of the President, Prime Minister and the Vice-President.

Currently, President Kibaki uses the French-manufactured Puma helicopters that are reconfigured for VIP usage.

As military utility helicopters, the Z-9 have a variety of roles including ground attack, air assault, cargo, reconnaissance and troop transport. They can carry 10 armed soldiers.

VIP fleet

Engineers note that while they expected the “new” helicopters to reinforce the VIP fleet, they were disappointed that they had not flown three months after arrival.

“For three months we have waited for them to take to the skies but to no avail,” our source, who cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said.

The Harbin Z-9 is a Chinese military utility helicopter licence-built version of the French Eurocopter Dauphin.

The first Z-9 flew in 1981, and was built in China by the Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corp from components supplied by AĆ©rospatiale.

This is the same French firm that supplied the Puma helicopters still in service for the Kenya Air Force.

The latest armed version, the Z-9WA, was introduced in 2005 and has night attack capabilities with an under-nose low-light TV and infra-red observing and tracking unit.

Information on the purchase of the choppers is contained in the latest factsheet of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which monitors worldwide purchase and transfer of military hardware.

Sunday Nation

IAF's AWACS to be flight tested in 2012: Official

February 2, 2010, Bangalore -- The indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) System, integrated onboard the Brazilian aircraft EMB145 as per Indian Air Force’s requirement, would be flight tested in 2012, a key official involved in the project has said.

The AEW&C system (also called AWACS - Airborne Warning and Control System) is being developed by the Bangalore-based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), a lab under the Defence Research and Development Organisation for the IAF.

Under a deal signed between India and Brazil in 2008, Embraer aircraft manufacturer would modify its EMB145 to carry Active Array Antenna Unit by India on the aircraft's fuselage.

Three modified EMB-145 aircraft would be developed under the agreement.

“AEW&C’s flying platform is the modified EMB145, which will take to skies later this year. It is scheduled to be delivered to us in Aug 2011,” CABS Director S Christopher said here.

Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday inaugurated the System Test and Integration Rig (STIR) complex at CABS for testing airborne systems.

Christopher said: “...our mission systems will be ready by this year. It will be tested in this rig in 2011, followed by flight testing in 2012.”

The indigenous AEW&C system would detect, identify and classify threats present in the surveillance area and act as a command and control centre to support air operations, he said.


Navy Activates 1st strategic Mobile Fleet

February 1, 2010 -- The Navy inaugurated Monday its first Aegis destroyer-led squadron Monday in an effort to develop its blue-water operational capability beyond coastal defense.

The inauguration ceremony of the 7th Mobile Fleet which will be made up of two squadrons took place at the Naval Operations Command in Busan, the Navy said in a news release.

Each squadron consists of a 7,600-ton KDX-II Sejong the Great-class Aegis destroyer and three 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyers.

The second KDX-III destroyer, Yi I, will be delivered to the Navy in August after sea trials.

The Navy plans to launch one more Aegis ship by 2012.

Six 5,600-ton mini-Aegis KDX-IIA destroyers, which will be built and operational between 2019 and 2026, will also join the squadrons.

The mobile fleet will be backed by 1,800-ton submarines, frigates, P3-C maritime patrol aircraft and Lynx anti-submarine helicopters, when it conducts operations to secure sea lanes and defend against a possible North Korean invasion, among others, the Navy said.

The squadrons will be based at the Busan operations command and a naval base in Jinhae, South Gyeongsang Province, it said.

A forward-deployed naval base to be built on the southern island of Jeju by 2014 will serve as the home port for the mobile fleet.

"The establishment of this mobile fleet heralds the ROK Navy's development into a blue-water force," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jung Ok-keun said in his speech during the ceremony. "As a rapid deployment force ranking with naval powers in the world, the fleet will support national policies and interests by perfectly completing missions assigned."

The fleet is scheduled to participate in combined or multinational maritime exercises, including the annual Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), which will be held in waters off Hawaii, from this year.

During RIMPAC, in particular, the Sejong the Great KDX-III destroyer will test-fire ship-to-air SM-2 Block IIIA/B Tactical Standard Missiles for the first time as part of Aegis combat system ship qualification trails (CSSQT) with allied nations, Navy officials said.

CSSQT is a series of at-sea exercises and tests to verify whether shipboard combat and weapon systems have been installed properly, and can be operated and maintained safely and effectively by the crew.


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