U.S. approves Air Tractor AT-802L COIN aircraft sale to Kenya
April 16, 2024
Photo credit: Air Tractor

U.S. approves Air Tractor AT-802L COIN aircraft sale to Kenya

The U.S. State Department has approved a USD $418 million sale of 12 Air Tractor AT-802L and 2 AT-504 trainers alongside a maintenance, logistics, and weapons package to Kenya.

As per the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA)’s news release, the Air Tractor AT-802L sale “provides a needed capability in the ongoing efforts to counter al-Shabaab” and “maximizes the Kenyan Defence Force’s Close Air Support (CAS) ability.”

The DSCA notes that the AT-802Ls will ‘supplement’ Kenya’s legacy Northrop F-5E Tiger II fleet, but the Air Tractor’s ability to take-off and land from short-field will enable Kenya to deploy these aircraft closer to its counterinsurgency (COIN) theatre.

Notes & Comments:

The DSCA notice did not disclose the munitions Kenya’s AT-802Ls will use, but it did note that the aircraft will be “capable of using precision munitions.” Considering the COIN objective, Kenya’s AT-802Ls may be armed with laser-guided bombs and missiles, most notably the Paveway and Hellfire range.

The AT-802U has a maximum payload of 4,100 kg across up to 15 hardpoints under the wings and fuselage. It is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F turboprop with a Hartzell propeller. According to Air Force Technology, the AT-802U has a top speed of 394 km/h, cruising speed of 333 km/h, and maximum range (with external fuel tanks) of 2,414 km. On average, an AT-802U costs less than USD $400 per hour to fly.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, platforms such as the AT-802U have made considerable inroads among the region’s air arms, especially in the COIN and CAS profile. This has caused a measure of bifurcation in the combat aircraft industry with turboprop platforms seemingly drawing prospective entry-level fast-jet customers. However, the light attacker space is also becoming increasingly saturated, with present players – i.e. Air Tractor and Embraer – poised to potentially meet Paramount Group and Turkish Aerospace Industries with the Mwari and Hürkuş C, respectively.