Kenya Defence Forces Ranks and Salary Structure

The Kenya Defence Force is a combination of the three arms of the country’s military; the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. The three are distinct from each other in functions and job responsibility as the Army is the land arm, the Navy is the water arm, and the Air Force is the air arm. However, their rank structures are not far removed from each other. The army cadre is divided into two broad categories; the commissioned and non-commissioned staff. The same can be said for the Navy that is divided into officers and naval ratings, while the Air Force is grouped into officers and airmen. While the commissioned staff of the Kenya Army and the officers of both the Kenya Navy and Air Force are the high-ranking staff, the non-commission staff, the naval ratings, and the airmen occupy the lower cadre.

Talking about the salary structure of the Kenya Defence Forces, there isn’t much difference in the amount received from officers of similar levels in the Kenya Army, Navy, and Air Force. A good instance can be drawn from the salaries of the highest-ranking officers of the three arms – while the Commander of the Kenya Air Force gets paid 906,014 Kenya shillings every month, the Commander of the Kenya Navy goes home with KShs902,432 per month, while the Vice Chief of Defense Forces gets KShs927,500 per month. These forces were not earning this much before 2017 when the Salaries and Remuneration Commission of Kenya carried out the latest reviews that saw the Chief of Defense Forces earning a whopping Ksh1,120,000.

Breakdown of The Kenya Defence Forces 

The KDF, which has full meaning as the Kenya Defense Forces, is the armed forces of Kenya. The constituents of the KDF include;

  • The Kenya Army
  • The Kenya Navy
  • The Kenya Air Force

The three arms work under service commanders who are responsible for overseeing their operations. Established in 2010, the compositions of the current KDF are stipulated in Article 241 of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. The KDF Act of 2012 is what governs the KDF. The major mission of the force is the protection and defense of the sovereignty/autonomy and territorial integrity of the East African country. In emergency or disaster situations, the KDF is assigned to cooperate with and assists other authorities in restoring peace and resolving issues in places affected by instability or unrest.

The position of the commander-in-chief of the Kenya Defense Force is usually occupied by the sitting president. The highest-ranking military officer is the Chief of Defense Forces who functions as the president’s principal military adviser. He also advises the National Security Council of the country.

According to the Kenya Defence Force’s new rule on promotions, officers of the KDF who joined the forces with lower qualifications will need to acquire a higher degree before they can qualify for promotions to the higher cadre like the commissioned staff of the Kenya Army, and the officers of both the Navy and Air Force.

Kenya Army

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The land arm of the KDF is the Kenya Army and its inception precedes the Kenya Defence Force, dating back to 1964. The origin of what we see today as the Kenya Army started with what was known as the “King’s African Rifles” of the British Army in the 19th century. With its headquarters cited at Waterworks Camp, Hurlingham, Nairobi, Kenya, the Kenya Army worked with a total of five brigades as of 2004;

  • Two infantry – one with two battalions and the other with three battalion
  • An armored brigade – with three battalions
  • One independent infantry – this had two battalions
  • One engineer brigade – with two battalions

In addition, the army included an airborne battalion, an air defense artillery, plus an independent air cavalry battalion. February 2014 was when Kenya’s official Ministry of State for Defence outline additional Army formations and services

  • Kenya Army Infantry
  • Kenya Army Paratroopers –
  • Kenya Army Armour
  • Kenya Army Artillery
  • Kenya Army Engineers
  • 50 Air Cavalry Battalion
  • Kenya Army Ordnance Corps
  • Kenya Army Corps of Transport
  • Kenya Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
  • Kenya Army Corps of Signals
  • Military Police Corps
  • Kenya Army Education Corps
  • Medical Battalion
  • Defense Forces Constabulary (DFC)

Kenya Army Ranks

The highest-ranking army officer in Kenya is the General who can function as the Chief of the Defence Forces. On the flip side, the lowest army rank is the Private. Their cadre notwithstanding, the assessment for soldiers in Kenya is strictly based on merit. These are the criteria with which the officers are promoted to the next level. Each of the ranks works under the supervision of a service commander who oversees activities in their daily operations. The Kenya Army ranks are divided into two broad headings;

  • Commissioned Officers
  • Non-commissioned Officers
Non-commissioned Officers

The non-commissioned is the lower part of the army cadre starting from the rank of a Private and ending with the rank of a Warrant Officer 1. This category of staff joined the army with lower qualifications and their training usually take place at the KDF training ground. The ranks of the non-commissioned officers are listed below;

  1. Private

Upon the completion of their phase 1 training at the Kenya Defense Force training ground, trainees are given the rank of Private. The makes the person a non-commissioned officer of the Kenyan Army.

2. Corporal

Corporal is the second-lowest cadre in the league of non-commissioned staff. This rank is attainable after a Private has passed Phase 2 training. There may be a Lance Corporals rank before Corporal.

3. Sergeant

This position is only attainable after an officer has served the Kenya Army for 12 long years. In a troop of 35 soldiers or a platoon, the Sergeant is the second in command and serves in an advisory position to the junior officers within the troop.

4. Senior Sergeant

Sergeants attain this rank after two years. The rank is viewed as the highest management of both equipment and soldiers with up to 120 officers. Holders of the rank can command a troop or a platoon.

5. Warrant Officer II

This is a senior management rank among the non-commissioned staff and the holder is focused on the training, discipline, and prosperity of about 120 officers. This rank can position you to serve under a Major in charge of a sub-unit as his senior adviser.

6. Warrant Officer I

With 18 long years of exemplary service, an officer of the Kenya Army will be promoted to the position of Warrant Officer I. The rank holder serves under his unit’s commanding officer as a senior adviser. His job responsibilities include leadership, discipline, and welfare of about 650 soldiers, including equipment.

Commissioned Officers

This is the category of soldiers that joined the Kenya Army as cadets. They entered the force with higher qualifications compared to the officers recruited as non-commissioned staff. Also, the procedure for their training is quite different from what is obtainable at the level of a Private as it starts at KMA (Kenya Military Academy) in Lanet, Nakuru County. The ranks of the commissioned officers are listed below;

11. Cadet

After they are through with training at Lanet, the new trainees are decorated with the rank of a cadet; this is the most junior officer among the commissioned staff of the Kenya Army.

10. Second Lieutenant

A couple of years after graduating from the Kenya Military Academy, a cadet is promoted to the position of Second Lieutenant. For the ensuing three years, the rank holder undergoes specialized training. With the rank, a soldier can lead around 30 officers in a platoon or a troop both in training and operations.

9. Lieutenant

Three to five years into military service (counting from his cadet year), a Second Lieutenant Gets promoted to the rank of a Lieutenant; this position lasts for three years while the holder is exposed to the opportunity of gaining more specialized military skills out of his unit. Following this, the officer will be responsible for leading around 30 soldiers in a platoon or troop.

8. Captain

To attain the rank of a Captain, the officer must have served for a period of six years. This rank places the holder as second in command in a sub-unit of around 120 soldiers. Captains are involved in decision-making and are also part of the planning processes within their sub-unit with on-ground tactical responsibility on operations, maintenance of equipment, logistic support, and workforce.

7. Major

With eight to ten years of outstanding service, plus a remarkable display of leadership skills, an officer of the Kenya Army gains promotion to the rank of a Major. A major is placed in command of a sub-unit of around 120 soldiers and officers. The rank holder’s responsibilities include; administration, welfare, managing their equipment, as well as training of officers within their sub-unit both in the camps and during operations.

6. Lieutenant Colonel

When a commissioned officer of the Kenya Army is promoted to the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel, he holds the rank for a couple of years commanding four to five sub-units with around 650 soldiers. The responsibilities of a Lieutenant Colonel include the overall operational effectiveness of the five sub-units in general discipline, military capabilities, and welfare.

5. Colonel

A Colonel is placed under the senior officers, working in his capacity as a senior operational advisor. He also functions as a staff officer at battalion level or brigade between field commands. A Colonel is not yet a field commander as it ranks lowest among the staff ranks

4. Brigadier

A Kenya Army officer who has attained the rank of a Brigadier becomes a field officer and is placed in charge of a staff director or a brigade.

3. Major General

Sometimes called two-star generals, a Major General is placed in charge of divisions as well as the appointments of senior staff. They take responsibility for promotions in the army. Major Generals can be promoted to the position of a service commander

2. Lieutenant General

In the Kenya Army, the rank of a Lieutenant General is among the highest. Officers in this cadre will be placed in charge of Corps-sized formations and they are only second in command to the General.

1. General

The most senior rank in the Kenya Army is the General. A General can hold prestigious positions such as the Vice Chief of Defense Staff. He can function as the Chief of Defense Staff or Chief of General Staff. This position can only be held by one person at a time unlike the other ranks in the Kenya Army that can accommodate as many people as possible.

The Salary Structure of the Kenya Army Officer

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission of Kenya is the body that is in charge of reviewing Kenya Army salaries alongside other job fields in the country. Salaries of officers of the Kenya Defense Force are jointly evaluated at a four-year interval and the last review was carried out by SRC in 2017. The revised structure shows that the highest-ranking KDF officer receives above one million Kenya shillings.

As soldiers under the Kenya Defence Force, officers are entitled to substantial amounts as allowances. For the officers living in barracks across the country, they enjoy certain benefits such as procuring commodities at half price. A good instance can be drawn from the price of sugar that goes for Ksh120 but the residents of the army barracks will get it at Ksh70. In addition, the officers on peacekeeping missions will be paid handsome allowances for their trouble. The range of allowances paid as peacekeeping money is from Ksh5,000 to Ksh10,000. The most interesting part of the peacekeeping money is that the aforestated amounts add up on a daily basis and by the time an officer concludes his mission, the cumulative will be quite remarkable. Get the latest salary structure for the Kenya Army below;

  • While still undergoing training, trainee officers of the Kenya Army receive the sum of KSh7,172 monthly as they wait for the completion of their training.
  • A cadet receives Ksh11,852 per month.
  • The take-home for an officer cadet is Ksh24,520 monthly, after three years of service with the army
  • The lowest rank in the army is Private and the rank holder received between Ksh19,941 and Ksh30,000 per month
  • Lance Corporals is paid a monthly remuneration of Ksh26,509.
  • A Corporal will get Ksh32,250 as monthly pay.
  • A Captain receives the sum of Ksh73,182 every month.
  • The monthly salary for a Major in the Kenya Army is Ksh102,106.
  • A Lieutenant Colonel will be paid Ksh130,735 on a monthly basis.
  • The salary of a Colonel in the army is Ksh153,317.
  • The rank of a Lieutenant General attracts a salary of 632,984 Kenya shillings monthly.
  • The Vice Chief of Defense Forces gets KSh927,500 per month.
  • The Chief of Defense Forces currently earns a whopping Ksh1,120,000.

The Kenyan Navy

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The Kenya Navy is the arm of the KDF that operates on the sea. Just like the Kenya Army, the country’s naval force was also founded in 1964, precisely on the 12th of December. This is also around the period Kenya received independence from the imperial masters. The headquarters of the Kenya Naval Force is cited in Mombasa. Presently, the Kenyan Navy can boast a total of 18 vessels of different classes. Apart from their head office, the Navy has other bases in

  • Mtongwe base in Mombasa
  • Shimoni
  • Msambweni
  • Kilifi
  • Manda (part of Lamu Archipelago)

Kenyan Navy Ranks

The ranks in the Kenya Navy have similarities with what is obtainable in the Army. The staff is also divided into two broad levels namely the Officers and Naval ratings. The ranks are outlined below;

  1. Admiral
  2. Vice Admiral
  3. Rear-Admiral
  4. Commodore
  5. Captain
  6. Commander
  7. Lieutenant Commander
  8. Lieutenant
  9. Sub-Lieutenant
  10. Midshipman

Kenyan Navy Salary

Just like what is obtainable in the Kenya Army, salaries and allowances of the Kenya Navy are equally paid according to variables like rank, years of service, and level of education. The salaries of the Naval officers of the Kenya Navy are listed below from the highest earner to the lowest earner.

  • The Commander of the Kenya Navy is paid KSh902,432 per month.
  • The Admiral rank of the Kenyan Navy attracts a salary of Ksh695,625 with 278,250 Kenya shillings as allowances bringing the pay package to a total of Ksh927,500.
  • The salary for the rank of a Commodore of the Kenya Navy is Ksh906,014
  • A Captain in the Kenyan Navy earns a monthly pay of KSh153,317.
  • A Kenyan Navy Commander takes home the sum of KSh130,735.
  •  KSh102,106 is what a Lieutenant in the Kenyan Navy receives as a monthly salary
  • A Midshipman in the Kenyan Navy gets the sum of Ksh73,182 as monthly remuneration
  • An Able Seaman in the Kenyan Navy receives a salary of Ksh32,250.
  • A Leading Seaman in the Kenyan Navy gets Ksh26,509 monthly
  •  A Junior Seaman in the Kenyan Navy takes home Ksh19,941.

The Air Force

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Soon after Kenya’s independence, the Kenya Air Force came into existence on the 1st of June 1964 with the help of the UK. Following the activities of a sect of Air Force officers who were involved in a failed coup on the 1st of August 1982, Kenya Air Force was disbanded. However, activities in the force were later reconstituted but were placed under tighter army control; this was referred to as the 82 Air Force. In 1994, the independence of the Air Force was restored completely. From 1994 to date, the Kenya Air Force has been establishing bases at strategic locations in the country and currently, they can boast of five in total, with headquarters in the country’s capital Nairobi. The bases of the Kenya Air Force include;

  • Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki which is the main airbase operating fighters
  • Moi Air Base located in Eastleigh, Nairobi is the headquarters.
  • FOB (Forward Operating Base) Mombasa (Moi International Airport),
  • Forward Operating Base Mandera,
  • FOB Wajir & Forward Operating Base Nyeri (this is mainly helicopters/small planes).

Kenya Air Force Ranks

In the Kenya Air Force, ranks are divided into two broad groups just like what is obtainable in the Army and the Navy. Here, you get the Airmen and the Officers. The Airmen belong to the lower cadre who are also the low salary earners, while the officers are the higher ranks that are paid higher remunerations.

The Officers

The officers of the Kenya Air Force function as the managers, essential influencers, problem solvers, and administrators charged with the responsibility of directing and overseeing the operation of the airmen officers in every situation. The officers also undertake the responsibility of training and equally guiding the airmen. The officers’ ranks start with the position of a Pilot Officer and end with the all decorated Air Marshall cadre. They are listed below;

  1. Air Marshall
  2. Air Vice Marshall
  3. Air Commodore
  4. Group Captain
  5. Wing Commander
  6. Squadron Leader
  7. Flight Lieutenant
  8. Flying Officer
  9. Pilot Officer
Airmen Officers

The airmen officers of the Kenya Air Force take instruction from the officers, but technically, they are not recognized to be in command. This category of the Air Force starts with the Warrant Officer Class I rank and ends with the position of the Leading Aircraftman II. The ranks are outlined below

  1. Warrant Officer Class I
  2. Warrant Officer Class II
  3. Flight Sergeant
  4. Sergeant
  5. Corporal
  6. Leading Aircraftman I
  7. Leading Aircraftman II

Salary of Kenya Air Forces

As one of the arms of the Kenya Defence Force, the salaries of officers of the Kenya Air Force are similar to what the army and the navy earn. The 2017 salary review by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission of Kenya also resulted in changes in the remunerations of the officers of the Air Force. However, unlike the other two arms, the amounts received by the lower cadre in the Kenya Navy are not known. The monthly salaries for the higher cadre are listed below.

  • The Chief of Defence Force’s basic salary is Ksh840,000 with entitlement to allowances of Ksh336,000, adding up to Ksh1,120,000.
  • Vice Chief of the Defense Force’s basic salary is Ksh695,625 and allowances of Ksh278,250, adding up to Ksh927,500.
  • Commander of the Kenya Air Force receives a cumulative monthly salary of Ksh906,014

Allowances Of The Kenya Defence Force

In addition to their monthly remuneration, officers of the Kenya Air Force are rewarded with monthly incentives and allowances. This is all due to the high risk involved in their job. Some of their incentives, allowances, and welfare packages of the officers of the KDF include

  • Basic House Allowance
  • Family Separation Allowance
  • Military Clothing Allowance
  • Medical Allowance
  • Hardship Allowance

The amount received as allowance by each officer will vary depending on factors like education level, job ranks, years of experience, among other variables. Just like the lower cadre receives lower salaries, their incentives and welfare packages are also expected to be lower.

Chacha O
Chacha O
Chacha is a writer with a wealth of experience who has contributed across several channels. Her specialty includes celebrity lifestyle including how top movie stars, musicians, and comedians live their lives.


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