Kenya to boost military capabilities with tactical vehicles and high-tech equipment

According to Business Insider Africa, the Kenyan government has embarked on an ambitious project to modernize its armed forces, committing a significant investment in advanced military equipment. An annual budget of 7 billion Kenyan shillings (approximately $45 million) over five years has been allocated for the purchase of tactical vehicles, drones, and other cutting-edge defense technologies. This program represents a total investment of 37 billion shillings (about $236 million), significantly enhancing the country's military capabilities.
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In December 2022, Kenya enhanced its military capabilities with six IAG 4X4 Guardian Xtream APCs. (Picture source: IAG)

This initiative was strengthened following the intervention of President William Ruto. The initial five-year program budget, initially set at 20 billion shillings (approximately $129 million), was increased due to growing concerns related to security challenges. The equipment is intended to strengthen the country's security agencies in their fight against terrorism and banditry, particularly in the North-Eastern and Lamu regions.

The first batch of equipment, including Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, aerial surveillance kits, and personal protective gear, is expected to arrive in the country within the next seven to ten days.

According to the SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) Arms Trade Database, as part of its efforts to modernize its military capabilities, the Kenyan Defense Forces already received six Guardian Xtream 4x4 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) from the United Arab Emirates-based International Armored Group (IAG) as of December 2022. This acquisition was aimed at enhancing the Kenyan forces' operations in Somalia, providing them with better-equipped resources to address the challenges in the region.

At present, although the exact models of the vehicles to be delivered are not precisely known, it is speculated that they might include Hizir Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP), with delivery initially scheduled for 2023. In 2021, the Turkish company Katmerciler announced it had secured a contract worth USD 91.42 million to supply Kenya with 118 Hizir 4x4 tactical wheeled armored vehicles.

The new vehicles acquired by Kenya are intended to replace those lost during combat operations and address current deficiencies in force protection, firepower, and mobility amid evolving security challenges. The Kenyan military has experienced losses of armored personnel carriers (APCs) in Somalia due to encounters with al Shabaab militants. The Kenyan forces primarily deploy APCs such as the Puma M26, Bastion, and WZ-551. These new additions aim to bolster their armored capabilities in response to the changing nature of regional threats and operational demands. Kenya’s order comes after Uganda received Hizir vehicles. At least 15 vehicles were exported to the country in 2020 in the type’s first export sale.

The Hizir APC was unveiled in November 2016 during the High Tech Port. Designed by Katmerciler, the Hizir is optimized for high performance in both rural and urban operational conditions and can accommodate 9 personnel. It offers high ballistic and mine protection, powered by a Cummins ISL turbocharged 6-cylinder diesel engine with 400 hp, achieving a top speed of 110 km/h and a range of 700 km. The vehicle is adaptable for various configurations, including command and control, CBRN, and as a weapon carrier, ambulance, or for border security or reconnaissance.

The Hizir is equipped with a Turkish-made Aselsan SARP turret, which can be fitted with a 12.7mm machine gun, 40mm automatic grenade launcher, or 7.62mm machine gun. Features of the SARP turret include fire-on-the-move capability, day and night imaging, automatic target tracking, a laser range finder, and a manual backup system.

The vehicle has nine gun ports and is also equipped with a smoke grenade launcher. Its flexible, low-cost, and easy-maintenance design makes the Hizir a versatile platform for various military applications.