Ichung'wah Mounts Proposal For Upgrade Of Ruto's Presidential Jet

Ichung’wah pleaded with fellow legislators to prioritise the modernisation of all military equipment, particularly aircraft utilised by both the armed forces and law enforcement agencies

Ichung'wah Mounts Proposal For Upgrade Of Ruto's Presidential Jet
A photo of the presidential jet - KAF 308 parked on a runway and President William Ruto inspecting a guard of honour after alighting from the plane (in a circle). /AIRLINERS.PCS

Days after the burial of the late Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Francis Ogolla who died in a helicopter crash on Thursday, April 18, calls are now growing for the upgrading of military and police aircraft, including the presidential jet.

National Assembly Majority Leader and Kikuyu Member of Parliament (MP) Kimani Ichung'wah, who spoke on the floor of the house on Tuesday, April 23, criticised his colleagues for often questioning allocations to the military meant for modernising equipment.

Having previously chaired the Budget and Appropriations Committee, Ichung’wah pleaded with fellow legislators to prioritise the modernisation of all military equipment, particularly aircraft utilised by both the armed forces and law enforcement agencies, including the presidential aircraft.

“At times, the military does come before the House looking for resources to modernize their equipment. And I’ve heard many members during the budgeting process criticize without knowledge, the modernization of military equipment.

President William Ruto disembarks from the presidential jet during his visit to Tanzania on October 9, 2022. /NATION.AFRICA

"Honourable Speaker, probably this now offers us opportunities that as we consider the next few years' budgets in this coming financial year and the next year, to seriously consider the modernisation of all our military equipment- including the aircraft that we use, not just in the military but in the police and the presidential jet," he called.

The lawmaker's call for modernisation resonates against the backdrop of Kenya’s modest fleet of around 80 aircraft, comprising 18 distinct platforms, prompting a renewed emphasis on upgrading military and police equipment to avert the recurrence of recent tragedies.

It comes amidst concerns raised regarding the state of Kenya's current military and police aircraft with much of the criticism directed towards the type of helicopter that crashed with the late General Ogolla on board.

The Bell Huey II which was used at the time was a US-made helicopter which is an upgraded version of the Bell UH-1H Multi-mission medium-lift helicopter.

The Huey helicopter can be traced to the 1960s during America’s war in Vietnam. It stemmed from a demand from the US Army to the Air Force for the creation of a helicopter that would facilitate the airlifting of wounded soldiers.

General Ogolla, 62, died on the afternoon of April 18, 2024, when the Bell Huey II military chopper he was in crashed and burned. He was among nine people who perished in the crash while two other officers survived.

The presidential plane currently used by Ruto is a KAF 308 Fokker ER 7 Executive Jet and estimated to be worth over Ksh2 billion and was acquired in 1995 to boost VVIP transport.

It has a cruise speed of 845km/hr and a range of 3,410km, just 1,000 shy of the Embraer 190, meaning it can do trips from Kenya to South Africa.

The aircraft is customised to the executive style and class fit for a Head of State, and despite holding a maximum capacity of 72 to 85 passengers, it can only carry a maximum capacity of 10.

The narrow-body, twin-engined, medium-range, turbofan regional airliner was made in the Netherlands and it is believed that its cabin crew is trained abroad. The value tag makes it considered one of the most expensive presidential jets in Africa.

Retired President Daniel Arap Moi was the first president of Kenya to use the aircraft on January 26, 1996. He was on a journey to an official function in Uganda.

The Fokker 70 is powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Tay 620 turbofan engines, positioned at either side of the aircraft and mounted on the rear fuselage; each engine is capable of providing up to 61.6 Kilonewtons (kN) of thrust.

The decision to procure a dedicated presidential jet was driven by considerations of cost-effectiveness and operational convenience, particularly for official travel across the African continent and beyond, eliminating the need for frequent chartering of aircraft.

With undisclosed security features tailored for the transport of Heads of State, the interior details and security arrangements of the aircraft have remained confidential for reasons of national security.

An upgrade with regards to the presidential aircraft would not only satisfy Ruto but also future presidents in successive governments who rely on the jet for their regional and international trips.

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta disembarking from the presidential jet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 5, 2022. /PSCU