WASHINGTON— The Pentagon plans to provide small drones to Kenya, part of a new package of military assistance for key African partners to combat al Qaeda and al Shabaab militants in Somalia.
Kenya will get eight hand-launched Raven drones with sensors used to pinpoint targets, according to Pentagon documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Ravens are unarmed but can be used to identify targets for strikes using ground forces or armed aircraft.
"This assistance will help build the capacity of Kenyan national military forces to conduct CT (counterterrorism) operations by providing tactical unmanned aircraft systems and training," a Pentagon document said. "This assistance will improve the tactical effectiveness and operational reach of the Kenyan National Defense Forces engaged in CT operations against al Shabaab in Somalia."
The Ravens for Kenya are part of an initial $41.4 million package of military aid that also includes trucks, communications gear and rifles for Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda.
The U.S. provided Ravens to Uganda last year, according to officials and documents.
The U.S. military has identified al Shabaab as a terrorist threat and has targeted some of the group's leaders in Somalia using drones and special forces. Officials said the new funds are meant to bolster the counterterrorism capabilities of key African allies in the region to go after the group and other al Qaeda supporters.
The Raven, which weighs 4.2 pounds and has a wingspan of 4.5 feet, is widely used by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Made by California-based AeroVironment, the system is used by militaries in 18 countries, said Steven Gitlin, the company's vice president for communications. Foreign buyers include Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Norway, the Czech Republic, Thailand and Australia, the company said.
Each foreign sale of the Raven is subject to State Department review and export license requirements, Mr. Gitlin said.
Larger U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency drones, including the Predator and the Reaper, carry missiles. The Obama administration wants to sell unarmed and armed Predators to key North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies but some lawmakers have raised objections.
U.S. to Provide Kenya With Drones to Fight Militants - WSJ.com