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                Jeshi la Anga la Kenya

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                                        Last update 27-05-2019

82' Air Force name used between 1982 and 1994 after a military coup.



    In October 1974 Kenya approached the US aid to buy a Squadron
    of fighters as well as police helicopters and small arms, due to
    Somalian claims on part of Northern Kenya, its Air Foce being
    equipped with MiG-17s and MiG-21s plus the menace coming from

    An attempt in automn 1975 to buy 10 Iranian surplus Northrop F-5A/B

    at a cost of approximately USD 100'000 each was unsuccessful as

    these were not released by the Iranian governement and no other

    country was willing to sell Freedom Fighters.

The USA planned to supply (in 1975) 10 Northrop F-5A to Kenya from Iran. They would have been available immediately at a low cost. This was a big advantage of this package. However, it did not work out as the Shah didn't agree.

When neighbouring Uganda bought MiG-21 supersonic fighters that would outperform the 4 remaining Hawker Hunter a request was transmitted in March 1976 to the US government for Northrop F-5E, which was reluctant to authorise the sale, not being convinced that the country had the technical capabilities, nor it was in a position to finance the deal. 

The request for Northrop  F-5E, costing around USD 60m, was to be financed through a combination of Military Assistance Programm (MAP) and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) credits.

By August 1976 an agreement (under the programm "Peace Drum") was reached covering the sale, on Foreign Military Sales credits, of 10 Northrop F-5E and 2 F-5F costing with associated spares and training USD 65m. Delivery was foreseen for September 1978, though Kenya requested earlier delivery. Consignment was through Nairobi-Embakasi airport as Nyanuki AB was unable to support the Douglas C-5 used.

Training, maintenance and operational sevice
Initially, training for 7 F-5 pilots was conducted in USA, with the 425th Squadron at Williams AFB during FY 1978; later it was conducted in Kenya due to financial difficulties. A USAF Technical Assistance Field Team, including instructor pilots, was based at Laikipia AB at least between January 1979 and August 1982 to assist local training. One pilot reached 1'500 hours on the plane in 1988, another one 1'000 hours.

The last Hunter flight was in 1979; in October 1979 a new Forward Operating Base was opened at Wajir.

First 6 disassembled Northrop F-5E were transported on 31-03-78 (in an early delivery)to Embasaki airport where they were assembled and flown to the new Nanyuki Station (in 1982 renamed Laikipia AB) by Kenyan pilots, though the base was not yet ready. A Kenyan and a USAF pilots had flown the acceptance tests. Here they replaced Hawker Hunter FGA.9 in the Tactical Fighter Wing, 15th Air Defence Squadron.

  Photo: Northrop

Northrop Sidewinder armed F-5E 907 photographed in USA  before delivery.

Coup d'etat
A failed coup d'etat attempt to overthrow the Kenyan president on 01-08-82 saw the participation of a group of Air Force officers hijacking two bomb-laden Nrthrop F-5sand ordering their pilots to bomb the president palace, orde they did not follow. This brought to the disbandment of the Air Force on 22-08-82, reconstituted shortly after under tight Army control under the name '82 Air Force; it regained independent status beginning 1994.

Improving the Air Force

According to an unofficial source published in  March 1995 there was interest in buying ex Jordanian Northrop F-5s, as at the moment 7 aircrafts were available of which 2 for training.

Investment of USD 20m during the year 1996 was for Tiger spare parts, rocket launchers, rockets and support equipment to maintain operability of the fleet, particularly in view of the chaotic situation ion Somalia.

One (of many) border accident at Amuma, 500 km east of Nairobi, when Kenyan Army arms and equipment was stolen by Somali militiamen. They were convinced to return the equipment when Kenyan troops were amassed at the border and Tigers flew reconnaissance flights into Somalia.

The first public display for many years was at the Nairobi air show in October 1997, when 2 F-5s were displayed together with several trainers and transport aircrafts.

Kenyan financial problems brought to an increasing worsening situation in operation. By the 2003 the majority was out of service due to lack of  money for maintenance, only some of them having been serviced by the US every year. In an effort to improve F-5 maintenance, operations, supply and aircraft support equipment an USAF eight men team visited Laipikia AB and Moi AB (Nairobi) between March 21st and 28th, 2007. 

    Northrop F-5E at Moi AB on 05-08-94 with nose of a USAF C-5 visible in foreground.
Photo: USAF

Losses and additional purchases

First F-5E loss was on 12-07-79, followed by additional four between 1981 and 1986 (see details in serial list). One Tiger was lost on 17-05-01.

Two additional Northrop F-5F were ordered end of 1980 to replace early losses
(see details in serial list) and air-delivered in June 1982. There were 9 aircrafts in service in 2004 according to an US official source.

Information was published in July 2005 the Kenyan press regarding the possible purchase of 10 Saudi Northrop F-5E and 4 F-5F (at a cost of 2.4 Kenyan Shillings) selected in April 2004 by a technical team from 44 on sale. An offer had been received from the Saudi defence ministry.

A committee deliberated on 19-05-05 about the acquisition, relating to structural and avionics upgrades, engine upgrades, spare parts, support equipment and assess ed the need for modifications in communication and navigational equipment for use in Kenya, but the Saudi offer was not accepted.

A definitive purchase was revealed mid-2007. It consisted of a package of 10 Jordanian F-5E (cost USD 4.5M), 3 F-5EM 
(USD  3.75m; equipped with HUDWAC head-up display weapon aiming computer) and 2 F-5F (USD 6.6m). The aircrafts were overhauled, modernised with new avionics (Rockwell Collins avionics system), communications equipment and repainted in Kenyan camouflage by the Jordanian Aeronautical Systems Company based at Amman. In addition to the aircrafts Jordan was to train 16 technicians; total package price was USD 15,3m.

On 25-11-07 12 F-5E, 2 F-5F for the Kenyan AF were seen at Amman-Marka airport, where they were awaiting maintenance and modification. Deliveries were scheduled in September 2008 at a cadence of 3-4 aircrafts per month; 10 Northrop F-5E and 1 F-5F were seen late May 2009 at the same place: 4 camouflaged single-seaters (only 1 with Kenyan serials), the rest in primer. Delivery of the aircrafts bought seem to have been delayed.

On 22-09-09 there were still 8 Northrop F-5E an 1 F-5F at Amman-Marka with Kenyan camouflage, but without insignia. It is not known if the remaining 4 Northrop F-5E and 1 F-5F had already been delivered or was still being worked-on by Jordanian Aeronautical Systems Company; 3 Northrop F-5E and 1 F-5F were at Amman-Marka in January 2010.

Jet training, after Short Tucano use is taken care in USA, with Cessna T-37 and Northrop T-38 at Laughlin AB before type conversion on Northrop F-5F in Kenya.

Four Tigers of the first batch were still operational mid-2011 according to unofficial sources. Five Northrop F-5E and 1 Northrop F-5F participated to a parade at Nairobi on 29-01-12.


Kenya, responsible for Somallian Sector 2 (comprising lower and middle Juba), operates against Islamic "al Shahab" guerrilla groups under the banner of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), controlled by the Joint Forces Air-Component Commander (JFACC) in Nairobi. Aircrafts and helicopters for the operation are based on Forward Aviation Bases, in addition to home bases. Spares and maintenance is available in-country.

The operation, coded Linda Nchi,
started in the morning of 28-09-11 with an order to dispatch in the afternoon a section of Northrop F-5s to Mombasa AB, where they arrived the following afternoon without having information on their duties.
Initial attack on 
"al Shahab" followed on 14-10-11, mid day, when two Northrop F-5s bombed enemy positions in the Somali towns of Dobley and Tabda, later followed by attacks to various other positions, supported by Chinese built Harbin Z-9 helicopters.

      Photo: unknown
                     Kenyan Northrp F-5Es landing, serials unreadable

One fighter-bomber (possibly an Northrop F-5) fired an Maverick missile against a stronghold of the group not far away from the Somalian Kisimayo port on 24-10-11, according to an uncofirmed report and verbally confirmation by the AF vice-commander that no precision guided weapons are in use. ThIs above is the first report (of several ones) mentioning the participation of Tigers (probably out of Mombasa) to the campaign, started on 16-10-11, against the movement as well as the possession of Mavericks (72) by Kenya. Another report states that two F-5s collided and crashed near Kismayo on 25-10-11 and another aircraft mistakenly bombed a Somali refugees camp, killing civilians.

Northrop F-5s were very active during the invasion of Somalia with US support; Northrop F-5s and gunships helicopters participated actively during the battle to conquest the city of Kismayo at the end of September 2012. By October 2014 at least two rockets armed single-seaters flew missions from the Forward Operating Base Wahir (Wajir).
One Northrop F-5E crashed on 04-12-14 in Somalia near Kisimayo after bombing an
"al Shahab" camp; a Kenyan spokeman said it crashed due to engine problems, Somali rebels mentioned it was shot down by a missile. No two-seaters are used in Somalia.

On 29-10-14 five with covered cockpit were seen at Laikipia AB, while on 12-12-15 three single- and one doubleseater flew over Nairobi on the Independence day.

Two jets reportedly attacked two major 
"al Shahab" camps in Southern Somalia in April 2016, destroying them. Other operation was the destruction in June 2017 of a logistical base near Jungal (West of Bardera). 

Information dated January 2015 stated that the Tigers would be almost certainly retired at the end of the war against 
"al Shahab" after conducting hundred of raids on militant positions, training camps, bases and logistic points. Procrement of General Dynamics F-16 was already considered in 2013 but not bought due to costs and the need to build new runways.

Not directly related to the Northrop F-5 is the news that 12 Air tractor AT-802L will be delivered from USA. This will ease the operation and helps to limit the use of the Tigers.,

An Kenyan newspaper reported on  08-02-18 the crash of a jet aircraft  near the Laikipia AB, an Northrop F-5. According to an USA source there are 12 Northrop F-5s active.