South Korea has donated six retired 500MD helicopters to Kenya for U.N. peacekeeping missions, the defense ministry announced in December 2023.
The helicopters, which were used by the South Korean Army as light attack helicopters, were shipped from the southeastern port of Busan to the United States for necessary repairs and maintenance before being delivered to Kenya, the ministry said.
The donation is part of South Korea’s pledge to provide 16 helicopters for peacekeeping missions during the U.N. peacekeeping forum hosted by Seoul in 2021. The remaining 10 helicopters will be delivered after close cooperation with the U.S. and U.N., the ministry added.
The 500MD helicopters, which were built by Korean Air’s aerospace division under license from 1976 to 1984, are being retired by the South Korean Army as it awaits the delivery of its new KAI LAH helicopters, which are expected to start mass production in 2024.
Some of the retired helicopters have been donated to technical schools and universities for educational purposes, while others have been shipped to Kenya, where they will be used for U.N. peacekeeping missions after consultations with the U.N.
The defense ministry said that the donation reflects South Korea’s commitment to contribute to the global peace and security, especially in Africa, where many U.N. peacekeeping operations are taking place.
The 500MD helicopters, which have a maximum speed of 248 km/h and a range of 430 km, are capable of performing various missions, such as reconnaissance, air support, and transport. They can also be equipped with rockets, machine guns, and missiles for combat situations.
The defense ministry said that the helicopters will enhance Kenya’s capabilities and readiness for U.N. peacekeeping missions, as well as strengthen the bilateral ties between South Korea and Kenya.
The Kenyan Air Force already fields older 40 MD500E, as well as 6 MD530F, an upgraded variant of the type which it received in 2020 from the United States.
In 2017, the United States approved the sale of 12 MD 530Fs along with FN Herstal .50 cal heavy machine gun pods and 70 mm rocket pods to Kenya to replace its aging MD 500s flown by the Kenyan Army’s 50th Air Cavalry Battalion.
On July 16, 2020, an MD Helicopters (Hughes) MD500E scout and utility helicopter of the Kenyan Army on 13 July crashed at Kithyoko, Ma halos County. The crash, killed both aircraft pilot, with the cause yet to be ascertained.