Kenyan Jets Spearhead Somalia Operation

Kenyan F-5s. Via The East African forum.

Kenyan F-5s. Via The East African forum.

by DAVID AXE

Second-hand F-5 jet fighters belonging to the tiny, untested Kenyan air force are spearheading a risky Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia aimed at destroying a Somali terror group.

On Oct. 17, around 2,000 Kenyan troops invaded southern Somalia. Their goal: to destroy Al Shabab, an Islamic terror group with ties to sea pirates, and whose agents were allegedly behind a string of kidnappings on Kenyan soil in recent weeks.

Reinforcements have boosted the Kenyan invasion force to some 4,000 people.

The attack — Kenya’s first major military operation in decades — began with an aerial bombardment of suspected Al-Shabab encampments near the Kenyan border. The Kenyan’s main target is Kismayo, a southern Somali port town that has been a staging area for Al Shabab and pirates.

Roughly 18 Northrop-built F-5Es and Fs represent the major combat capability of the Kenyan air force. Nairobi originally purchased F-5s from the U.S. in the late 1970s; in 2008 Nairobi spent $23 million to acquire another 15 used F-5s from the Jordanian air force. The Jordanian jets were reportedly in poor shape.

Even in pristine condition, the F-5 is a rudimentary combat aircraft by current standards. The relative inexperience of Kenya’s fighter pilots, combined with their warplane’s intrinsic limitations, could translate into only a very basic fighting capability. In the last decade the U.S. military has provided at least $50 million in training and logistical support to the Kenyans; indeed, Scott Gration, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, was once an Air Force adviser to the Kenyan military. It’s unclear whether U.S. assistance included systems upgrades for the F-5s.

Considering the small size, poor condition and inexperience of Kenya’s fighter force, it’s perhaps surprising that the F-5s have been so busy over Somalia. But there are signs that the high operational tempo is taking a toll. Two F-5s reportedly collided and crashed near Kismayo last week. And an F-5 mistakenly bombed Somali refugees at a camp also near Kismayo, reportedly killing five civilians.

The U.S. Air Force, the world’s leader in surgical air strikes, uses air controllers on the ground plus aerial surveillance drones to guide warplane attacks. It’s possible that the Americans are helping the Kenyans in that regard. The Air Force recently began flying MQ-9 Reaper spy drones over Somalia from a base in Ethiopia. The Reapers can carry video cameras, radars and designators for laser-guided bombs. The drones themselves can be armed, but those in Ethiopia reportedly do not carry weapons.

The Reapers could be spotting targets for Kenya’s F-5s. If so, it’s not clear how the targeting data is being transmitted from the drones to the fighters. U.S. manned warplanes can interface directly with Reapers and other drones, but it seems unlikely that Kenya’s outmoded F-5s have the same ability.

This entry was posted in Authors, David Axe, English, Somalia.

33 Responses to Kenyan Jets Spearhead Somalia Operation

  1. Pingback: War Is Boring » Offiziere.ch: Kenyan Jets Spearhead Somalia Operation

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  4. Regina Rays says:

    HAHAHAHHA………………this is one funny blog, nothing here is true, okay apart from the air force is bombing targets in somalia using F-5 jets! other wise everything else is false. This is why bloggers are never taken too seriously, because anyone types anything and gets away with it!
    I don’t even know where to start in correcting this idiot of a blogger who wrote this!
    I give up! As for the KDF, HURRRRAAAAH Soldiers, you do us proud!

    • Donald Moks says:

      Let me give a bit of information to both the originator and contributors to this blogg. First, the writer does not know Kenyan defence forces properly. He is not only talking from a position of ignorance but also arguing like an ‘arm chair scientist’. Kenya has a highly secretive force which is necessarily a good strategy. A good military should be secretive because that is part of defense strategy. For starters when Kenyan Airforce reported publicly that they had acquired ‘junk F 5 jets” from Jordan, this was just a strategy. Kenyan millitary strategists did not want to invoke unnecessary arms race in the region by revealing that it had acquired F15 air superiority fighters. So you guys…be informed appropriately. Plus we have one the best infantry fighting units.

      Besides, battle or war is not only about with equipments only…it is also about tact and training which the Kenyan military can boast of…even sometimes better that most western nations.

  5. Tattie says:

    Regina…. Thank you for your input its both enlightening and educational, in so far as it shows you up to be an idiot. Surely the purpose of blogs in general and this one in particular is they create a area where things can be discussed and postings can be refuted with some evidence and discussion this either proves your point (do you have one?) or in some way moves the discussion on. Or of course you can just waste all our time with your inane waffle. To paraphrase my mother if you haven’t got anything intelligent to say, say nothing at all you only reveal your own ignorance. Wise words indeed take heed

    • john kimani says:

      Regina…i share your sentiments.the blogger claiming that kenya airforce is out dated and pilots poorly trained doesnt understand what he is writing about. first he should have given us the comparrison in this region. it sounds important to him to glorify himself of his ability to to judge others, but what is that saying again?…too much superiority complex makes one look stupid. this blogger is like another i read from, who was wondering whether kenya has ever had an aiforce!! they write so authoritively, yet make little sense. if i were to comment on an issue i am familiar with, and this blogger isnt familiar with anyrhing other than his prusumed knowledge of the F5s, he would have given us the name of the aiforce that rivals kenya’s in the eastern africa region. regina, i think you have a point. he doesnt!! i wonder if he knows beyond his doorsteps let alone kenyan issues. when the airforce that he trivializes deals a blow to the al shabaab what will he write next?? that it was the americans who did it?? tell the blogger we score first in many things. we are not the country they seeks to portray and i honestly dont know whether they even know where kenya is. my suggestion is that they get education on kenyan matters before they comment on issues they clearly are ignorant about. my point is not to argue about the age of the f5s. they have been flying over our skies for as long as i can remember. but i saw the profiling of the F5 that we have. it has the ability to carry side winder missiles. it has already been upgranded to to do what a newer fighter plane can do. am i not supposed to believe that our fighter planes can defend our country from any air aggression?? the colliding of the jets as the blogger claims never happened. they are confusing the crashing of the Z-9w chopper with the so called collusion of the jet fighters. that would have made news. it never did. Regina..i agree with you. people do make fools of themselfs talking about things they dont understand.

  6. David says:

    Regina and Kimani both have a point, the blogger appears to only to have heard of Kenya, I wonder if he can even point out the country on a map. As for Tattie you are clearly the IDIOT here. Just bcoz the USA failed in Somalia and was disraced does not mean that Kenya will as well, we have a better strategy of not using our arrogance like the USA did, we have a trained and professional Military using both force on the ground as well as propaganda to win this war. TFG forces are ont the ground with Kenyan forces as well as AMISOM, Somalis have expressed their joy at being liberated from Al Shabaab as well. Just watch this space, we will succeed where others have failed bcoz we are humble in our quest.

  7. Pingback: O papel dos F-5 Tiger quenianos na guerra do Quénia contra a milícia somali Al Shabab | Quintus

  8. Idiris tifo says:

    Kenyan air force’bombs is like a gun in children’hands

    • David says:

      @Idiris tifo- Tell that to the Alshabaab militants who have been felled by the bombs…clearly you are not the sharpest knife on the shelf….

  9. Idiris tifo says:

    I hope keyans’ air force do not bomb Nairobi instead of Baidoa,

  10. One comment was deleted because of inappropriate content. Don’t change to unrelated subjects and discuss objectively!

  11. DANIEL ANDREW says:

    I am just wondering where some people like David Axe gets facts from, “poorly trained pilots,rudimentary aircrafts,aircrafts bought were in bad condition…blah,blah,blah”
    I thought that the kenyan airforce training originated from the british system ask any kenyan airforce soldier to prove this,so are the Brits too ill-trained?…the same aircrafts are now causing havoc in Somalia…….in his senses let him provide a better airforce in subsaharan africa…because the last I checked KAF is regarded for its professionalism(today)….why buy advanced gadgets that would waste a lot of resources when you could upgrade what we have,we are not mobilising for war.
    KAF operates two major airbases,with LAIKIPIA AIRBASE being the largest in EAST AND CENTRAL AFRICA…plus Wajir is purpotedly up for renovation that makes it 3, Idon’t think for our geographical size this is a small airforc unless David Axe is comparing us to the US.
    David Axe get your facts before exposing your ignorance.

  12. Doug says:

    So, If the F5 is worthless, then why does the US use it as an aggressive fighter while training their pilots at miramar, top gun school? The instructors fly the F5 II E

  13. Doug says:

    Oh, did I fail to mention that in the movie “Topgun” the “Ruskies” are flying the F5 painted black? BTW, best dog fight scene ever and dido to some vietmam movies. Hmmm I wonder why the USAF still keeps them around. Now see, That’s why take exception to this blog. It seems you want to keep the Kenyan military down. As per an earlier comment, Kenya AF is fine for the size of the country and last time I checked, they have been owing the Shabab. Who else can claim that?? As for our reapers lasing for the Kenyans, it can be done very easily, it’s just a matter of attaching a JDAM and or LGB “fire and forget” but with deadly accuracy. BTW, there is nothing wrong with operating older aircraft. For example, the 747 is still around and it was developed in the 60s and I believe AF one is a 747. And numerous fighter and passenger air craft still flying today. All you need is upgrades in avionics and software, hard points etc….. This was too easy. It’s like you brought a stick to a gun fight. Next time, think before you insert foot in mouth.

  14. Kim says:

    To all people out there who wonder and question the experience Kenyan military has had in terms of previous combat, its a very simple answer….you don’t walk into a Lion’s den if you have anything called brains between your ears. No one has dared them for a fight, and we have a professional force whose role is to safeguard our territory against external aggression, not to go pick fights with our neighbors. But if u want some proof of our punching power then send your best boys…your experienced ones.

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  16. Joe Gee says:

    As much as am a patriot I’d like to state that the airforce could use some improvements. The F-5 is an ancient aircraft, circa mid 20th century. As a finished project the USAF never adopted the F-5 in any active role (as far as I Know). It was however adopted as an aggressor trainer, as it mimics several characteristics of Soviet Migs. It severely limited in range, stealth and electronic warfare. However, in comparison to the air capability of Shabaab, or lack of it, it is more than enough. Our pilots are also highly trained and motivated. And rumors are flying around that the upgrading of the Laikipia Air Base is to facilitate its use by F-15 especially for night ops. (as with all rumors, you didn’t hear this from me.) Any way www-land people rest easy in your beds with the knowledge that the best trained boys south of the Sahara are keeping a watchful eye out for you.

  17. lumumba says:

    The USA has hundreds of F5 still in service and all over the world there are more than one thousand F5 operating the world over to date..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_F-5

    The Kenya armed forces is a well trained military force and probably the best in eastern Africa. The Kenya air force is second to none in terms of operational experience in the region.

    • Quantity is not always a sign of quality. Operational experience doesn’t adjust outdated hardware.

      • Al bashir says:

        And new, flashy and fancy equipment does not guarantee victory either. I would like you to give your honest opinion on the entire operation. It was more of a cerebral war not just brawn. To cap it off kismayo was taken almost without a fight, this was a brilliant strategy.

      • musa says:

        The Kenya armed forces is a well trained military force and probably the best in eastern Africa. For one i have seen first hand tornadoes ECR land in a base in Kenya with Kenyan markers. Kenya does have other jets apart from F5s!

  18. Tenebrae_green says:

    And finally, today, the perfect answer: Mission accomplished in one of the most sophisticated, elegant assaults in African history. Back to article–if all this has been attained with such poor equipment, by an untrained army..er….perhaps it is time for the Western military complex to leave wars to those who know how?

    • Al bashir says:

      I second your opinion. The untested army with a “rudimentary” air force did what the world was afraid of doing. Now only if we had F-22’s et al..

  19. Al bashir says:

    Now that the “untested” army has proven the world wrong, has succeeded where 144,000 us soldiers failed, why do you write a follow-up on the text book take down of al-shabaab by the KDF? Still waiting for your write up.

  20. Mzee Kobe says:

    Your defense doctrine has to match the geographical threat matrix. Why should a 3rd world country purchase a $200M fighter if all you are ever going to come up against are ragtag militias on pickup trucks?

  21. Dennis Fidha says:

    As you May see the date of when I posted This Message, It has been Months After Kenya Special Forces Invaded kismayu-Somalia, Of which they Used F-5 fighters and gunship and successively captured the City- For those who claimed that they were untested and incompetence,,…. Whose Laughing Now??? SO because this Guy doesnt know where Kenya is I will give him an article from New york Times -link…http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/29/world/africa/kenya-says-it-captures-last-islamist-bastion-in-somalia.html

  22. Jilo says:

    Kenya is not made up of fools. It has a competent army ready and capable of undertaking any mission to protect its country. Kenya does not beat drums of war, it is a peaceful country, with an army that is professional and with the necessary equipment. The international engagements can attest to this. God bless Kenya!

  23. Samweli mwaituja says:

    Kenya has the best and highly qualified pilot than most of the African countries and this can be proved by what they have been doing in Somalia

  24. dollo says:

    how inaccurate.a guy who has never stepped into kenya for years and gathered opinions 1000s of miles away to write a blog.i think ill also write a blog since any morron can do it.

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