A US Government Accountability Office report found no fault in a proposed foreign military sale to Kenya, but the US lawmaker spearheading the investigation into the L-3 Communications contract opportunity is not satisfied.
In January, the US State Department approved a possible $418 million foreign military sale to Kenya for up to 12 Air Tractor AT- 802L Longsword aircraft and two AT-504 trainer aircraft, with L-3 Communications serving as the prime contractor. The State Department release cited the Longsword’s short-field capability and precision munitions, which would serve Kenya’s close air support mission in the fight against the terrorist group al-Shabaab and buttress the air force’s aging Northrop F-5 fleet.
Pricing terms in L-3's original proposal to Nairobi expired in June, but the USAF granted a request by the Kenyan government to extend the offer to 16 September -- after national elections held in Kenya in August. So far, a final deal between Kenya and L-3 has not been announced.
But North Carolina Congressman Ted Budd, whose district includes Air Tractor’s rival in the armed cropduster market, IOMAX, called foul on the Kenya deal. IOMAX’s Archangel already flies with the UAE, but the Kenya deal marks Longsword’s first selection. L-3 proposed a $365 million aircraft deal, not including ordnance, to Kenya while IOMAX quoted $234 million for the same number of Thrust-710-based Archangel aircraft, a source tells FlightGlobal.
Budd has previously questioned L-3’s relationship with the USAF’s acquisition engine, Big Safari, and launched an investigation into the Air Tractor contract earlier this summer. While the recent GAO report concludes Kenya did not improperly select Longsword, Budd points out the investigation excluded interviews with Kenyan officials.
“A report on a Kenyan arms sale that did not involve speaking to Kenyan officials is virtually useless. I’m looking forward to continuing to pursue oversight of this deal, and examining why the U.S. contracting system would steer our allies in Kenya towards a contract that is inflated by $130 million for an aircraft that has never flown in combat.”
The USAF denied Budd’s office request for the Kenyan Minister of Defence’s correspondence regarding the acquisition, including letters of requests, letters of offer and acceptance. The service says the documents could not be released without the government of Kenya’s authorization.
Kenya’s request for a sole-source acquisition was motivated by specific interest in Air Tractor, the GAO report states.
“According to Air Force and [Defense Security Cooperation Agency] officials, foreign countries frequently specify particular equipment and contractors in FMS cases,” the report states. “DOD’s [Security Assistance Management Manual] states that foreign customers need not provide a rationale for their sole-source contracting requests, although these requests must meet the objective requirements of the purchaser, and should not be motivated by improper or unethical considerations."