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Kenya Defence Forces (KDF): ranks, salaries, and allowances

ByKenneth Nyabora

Oct 11, 2023
Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) ranks, salaries, and allowances

Last updated on November 5th, 2023 at 03:42 pm

The Kenya Defense Forces consist of the Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force, and Kenya Navy. They were established in 2010 as per Article 241 of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya and are governed by the Kenya Defense Forces Act of 2012. The President of Kenya serves as the commander-in-chief of all armed forces, while the Chief of the Defense Forces (CDF) holds the highest leadership position. The CDF plays a critical role as the top-ranking professional leader of the three distinct Kenya Defense Forces Services and serves as the principal military advisor to the Commander-in-Chief. This structure significantly influences the organization and strategic decision-making of Kenya’s defense establishment. So, what are the Kenya Defense Force’s (KDF) salaries and allowances?

The function of the Kenya Defense Forces is to protect Kenya’s national security and territorial integrity through military operations, humanitarian assistance, and peacekeeping missions, as mandated by the government. The forces’ recruitment is yearly, and qualified prospects are between 26 and 34 years old. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission of Kenya (SRC) examines and determines the Kenya Army salary ranges. The highest KDF payslip reads slightly more than Ksh. 1 million.

KDF Salary and allowances by rank

Kenya Army salaries, allowances, and ranks are determined based on factors such as level of education, years of experience, duty location, and other relevant skills an individual has. As mentioned, KDF salaries are evaluated and determined by the SRC. These salaries are reviewed every four years; the last review was in 2023 and should be implemented from July 1, 2023, to July 1, 2024.

KDF officers receive generous allowances during peace missions, and those residing in barracks enjoy perks such as purchasing goods at 50% below market prices. The table below displays the current KDF ranks and salaries to assist individuals considering a military career in making informed choices.

Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) RankMonthly Salary Range in Kenya Shillings
Cadet (in training)Earns Ksh. 7,172
PrivateEarns Ksh. 19,941 to Ksh. 30,000
Lance CorporalEarns Ksh. 26,509 to Ksh. 50,000
CorporalEarns Ksh. 32,250 to Ksh. 70,000
CaptainEarns Ksh. 73,182 to Ksh. 110,000
MajorEarns Ksh. 102,106 to Ksh. 150,000
Lieutenant ColonelEarns Ksh. 130,735 to Ksh. 180,000
ColonelEarns Ksh. 153,317 to Ksh. 300,000
Lieutenant GeneralEarns Ksh. 632,984 to Ksh. 800,000
Chief of Defense ForcesEarns Ksh. 894,897 to Ksh. 1.2 million
This table presents KDF salaries in Kenya based on their ranks

What is a KDF Specialist Officer’s Salary?

KDF (Kenya Defense Forces) specialist officers are highly trained military personnel with expertise in specific fields such as engineering, medicine, intelligence, or cyber warfare, serving in specialized roles within the Kenyan military. However, a KDF specialist officer’s salary differs from other officers’ salaries depending on the position, responsibilities, and profession.

Kenya Army ranks

The Kenya Defense Force operates in ranks. The importance of these ranks lies in their role in maintaining discipline, ensuring efficient military operations, and providing a transparent chain of command. Ranks also indicate a soldier’s level of responsibility, experience, and authority within the organization. This hierarchy helps with effective communication, decision-making, and leadership within the military. The Kenya Army ranks are in two major groups: commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers. However, the KDF-commissioned officers are above the non-commissioned officers.

Commissioned officers are officers at the top of the hierarchy and are granted commission by the Commander-in-Chief; thus, they are called commissioned officers. These officers make decisions and plans. On the other hand, non-commissioned officers are the lowest-ranked military personnel. Non-commissioned officers train and lead the troops. These two groups are further subdivided into different categories. However, promotions in this category are determined by age, experience, merit, and academic qualifications in line with Tonje law.

KDF Non-commissioned officers (lowest to highest)

Non-commissioned officers, also known as NCOs, are the lowest-ranked military personnel. Non-commissioned officers earn their positions through promotions through enlisted ranks and not through presidential decrees. Below are their ranks, from the lowest to the highest.

1. Private Officers

Private officers are the lowest-ranked non-commissioned cadre of KDF personnel who have completed phase one military training at the Recruits Training School, which takes six months of foundational military training. So, what is the salary of private officers in Kenya?

The salary of private officers is between Ksh. 19,941 and Ksh. 30,000

2. Lance Corporal

Lance Corporal: A Kenya Defense Forces Private Officer becomes a Lance Corporal after three years of service or upon passing Phase 2 training. In this role, a Lance Corporal is responsible for leading a team of approximately four soldiers, known as a Section. So, what is the salary of a Lance Corporal in Kenya?

The salary of a Lance Corporal in Kenya is between Ksh. 26,509 and Ksh. 50,000

3. Corporal

A corporal is a non-commissioned officer in the military, holding the third-lowest rank among NCOs. Attaining the position of corporal requires six to eight years of dedicated military service, with promotion contingent on demonstrated leadership skills. Corporals play a vital role in military operations as they manage a larger number of soldiers compared to the Lance Corporal rank. They are responsible for overseeing and maintaining various military equipment, including tanks and guns. The structured nature of their duties and the need for effective leadership make the role of the corporal crucial in military organizations.

So, what is the salary of a corporal in Kenya? The salary of a Corporal in Kenya is between Ksh. 32,250 and Ksh. 70,000

4. Sergeant

A sergeant, typically achieved after 12 years of dedicated military service, plays a crucial role within the armed forces. Specifically, in the context of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF), a sergeant commands a platoon, a unit consisting of up to 35 soldiers. This role involves both leadership and advisory responsibilities, as sergeants serve as the assistant commander of the platoon while guiding junior officers. The transition to the rank of sergeant often involves the promotion of a corporal who has demonstrated exemplary military service. This promotion marks a significant milestone in a soldier’s career, granting them increased authority and responsibilities as they lead a platoon of up to 35 soldiers.

So, what is the salary of a Sergeant in Kenya? The salary of a Sergeant in Kenya is Ksh. 45,540.

5. Senior Sergeant

Becoming a Senior Sergeant in the military entails promotion after two years as a Sergeant. A Senior Sergeant’s role involves commanding an Army company, which typically comprises around 120 soldiers and their associated military equipment. It’s important to note that within the Senior Sergeant rank, there are two specialized positions: Staff Sergeant and Color Sergeant. These specialized roles are attainable after two years of service as a Sergeant. While both Staff and Color Sergeants hold the rank of Senior Sergeant, their specific responsibilities may vary. Staff/Color Sergeants have the authority to lead an entire troop or platoon. This highest enlisted rank equates to a managerial position in the military hierarchy.

So, what is the salary of a Senior Sergeant in Kenya? The salary of a Senior Sergeant in Kenya is Ksh 50,220.

6. Warrant Officer Class 2 or Warrant Officer II

Warrant Officer Class 2, also known as WO2, is a senior non-commissioned rank responsible for training, guiding, and disciplining a troop of approximately 120 soldiers. They serve as advisors to Majors, who lead sub-units. Warrant Officer Class 2 focuses on soldier development and maintaining discipline, with the potential for promotion to an officer role.

So, what is the salary of a Warrant Officer Class 2? The salary of a Warrant Officer Class 2 in Kenya is around Ksh. 100,000 per month.

7. Warrant Officer I

Warrant Officer I, the highest non-commissioned officer rank in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), is achieved after 18 years of outstanding military service. A Warrant Officer Class 1 commands a platoon of 650 soldiers and their equipment. In the KDF, this rank holds a pivotal role in leadership and operational responsibilities.

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KDF Commissioned officers (lowest to highest)

KDF Commissioned Officers are the highest-ranking military officials in Kenya. They start as cadets and receive training at Kenya Military Academy (KMA) in Lanet, Nakuru County. Commissioned officers specialize based on their post-secondary qualifications and are responsible for training and leading enlisted officers. Their appointments and promotions are confirmed by the president. Here are the ranks of KDF Commissioned Officers from lowest to highest:

1. Officer Cadet

Officer Cadet is the initial rank earned after training at KMA in Nakuru and is the lowest rank among commissioned officers. To become or join KDF as a cadet, you must meet some important requirements, such as attaining a minimum grade of D (plain) in KCSE; therefore, having a grade above a D (plain) will give you a faster chance of being accepted. In addition, you must be medically fit, your skin must be healthy without large or deep scars and tattoos, and you must be between 18 and 26 years old. Your dental structure should be healthy; therefore, if you have one tooth, you will be rejected because forces need healthy and fit candidates.

For the training part, the training of a cadet is free of charge and takes place at Kenya Military Academy, which is a premier institution for basic foundational military officer training and intellectual development. The academy is responsible for training cadets for commissioning as officers. The training of a KDF cadet takes three years.

So, what is the salary of KDF cadet-training soldiers? The salary of a cadet in the Kenyan army is Sh7,172, even while still training.

2. Second Lieutenant

Second Lieutenant is a temporary commissioned rank achieved after two years of graduation from the Kenyan Military Academy (KMA). It is typically held for three years during specialized training, where officers lead a troop of up to 30 soldiers in both operational and training capacities within the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF).

3. Lieutenant

A lieutenant is a military officer rank achieved after three to five years of exemplary service with specialized skills obtained within their respective units. Lieutenants typically hold the position for three years and may lead up to 30 soldiers in a troop or platoon, making them an integral part of the military chain of command.

4. Captain

A military officer attains the rank of captain after six years of service. Captains are responsible for leading a unit of up to 120 soldiers. They play a vital role in the decision-making process and oversee equipment maintenance, logistics, and workforce management.

5. Major

A military Major is attained through 8–10 years of outstanding service and leadership skills. Majors command approximately 120 soldiers and officers, responsible for administration, welfare, training, and equipment management. During their service, they demonstrated strong leadership, decision-making, and discipline skills.

6. Lieutenant Colonel

A Lieutenant Colonel holds one of the highest ranks in the military and is responsible for commanding 4 to 5 sub-units comprising about 650 soldiers and officers. They typically serve in this position for a two-year term. Their role involves overseeing sub-units consisting of over 120 soldiers and receiving reports from Lieutenants.

So, what is the salary of a lieutenant colonel? The salary of a Lieutenant Colonel in Kenya is Ksh. 130,735 to Ksh. 180,000

7. Colonel

In the KDF (Kenya Defense Forces), a colonel is a staff officer who does not serve as a field commander. They are the lowest staff rank and play a crucial role as senior operational advisors to high-ranking officers. Colonels primarily function as staff officers, facilitating communication and coordination between brigade- or battalion-level field commands.

8. Brigadier

A brigadier within the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) is a senior field officer responsible for leading and coordinating the operations of a brigade. A brigade is a key military unit comprising multiple battalions and often consisting of over 1,000 soldiers. Brigadiers play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of brigade-level missions, making them integral to the KDF’s operational structure.

So, what is the salary of a brigadier? The salary of a Brigadier in Kenya is Ksh. 130,735 to Ksh. 180,000

9. Major General

In the military, a Major General is a senior officer responsible for divisions, senior staff appointments, and promotions. They hold a two-star rank and can ascend to service commanders. Their role includes overseeing divisions and promoting senior officers.

10. Lieutenant General

A Lieutenant General in the Kenyan military is a high-ranking officer responsible for leading army corps formations. This rank is the second most important in the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF).

11. General

“General” in the context of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) is the highest-ranking military position. This role, also known as the Chief of Defense Forces or four-star general, is held by a single individual appointed by the President of Kenya. The general serves a fixed term of four years and is responsible for the overall leadership and command of the KDF. This position represents the pinnacle of authority within the KDF, with only one person holding it at any given time.

kenya air force

Kenyan Air Force ranks and salaries

The Kenya Air Force, established by the Republic of Kenya on June 1, 1964, with support from the United Kingdom shortly after gaining independence, is a vital component of the country’s defense apparatus. Its headquarters is located at Moi Air Base in Eastleigh, Nairobi. The primary operational base for fighter aircraft is Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki, while other vital facilities include the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mombasa at Moi International Airport, FOB Mandera, FOB Wajir, and FOB Nyeri. The KAF’s fleet consists of 152 aircraft, encompassing a variety of platforms, including helicopters and small planes. These bases and resources collectively enable the Kenya Air Force to effectively safeguard the nation’s airspace and contribute to its national security efforts.

Kenyan Air Force Commissioned Officers ranks (lowest to highest)

  1. Pilot Officer: This is the entry-level rank for commissioned officers. Responsibilities typically involve initial training, learning the basics of military aviation, and assisting higher-ranking officers.
  2. Flying Officer: Flying officers continue to gain experience and expertise in aviation while taking on more significant responsibilities. They may serve as junior flight commanders or assistants in various roles.
  3. Flight Lieutenant: Flight Lieutenants are responsible for leading smaller units of aircraft or teams, as well as more complex flying tasks. They might hold positions as flight commanders, instructors, or operational planners.
  4. Squadron Leader: Squadron leaders are typically in command of a squadron, which can consist of multiple aircraft and personnel. They are responsible for the training, morale, and operational readiness of their unit.
  5. Wing Commander: Wing commanders are responsible for larger operational units within the air force, such as wings or groups. They oversee multiple squadrons and are involved in strategic planning, leadership, and coordination.
  6. Group Captain: Group captains are senior officers who oversee multiple wings or groups. Their responsibilities include managing personnel, resources, and strategic planning at a higher level.
  7. Air Commodore: Air Commodores hold significant leadership roles, often at the level of an air force base or significant command. They are responsible for ensuring the operational readiness of their assigned units.
  8. Air Vice-Marshal: Air Vice-Marshals are high-ranking officers responsible for overseeing entire commands, regions, or directorates within the Air Force. They have a major role in shaping Air Force policies and strategies.
  9. Air Marshal: Air Marshals are the most senior officers in the Kenyan Air Force. They are responsible for the highest-level decision-making, policy formulation, and the overall direction of the Air Force. They may also liaise with other branches of the military and government officials to ensure national defense objectives are met.

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Kenyan Air Force Airmen ranks (lowest to highest)

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

Kenya Air Force’s salary per month

Here’s a table for the Kenya Air Force’s salary:

RankMonthly Salary
Chief of Defense ForcesKsh. 1,120,000 (Ksh. 840,000 basic salary and Ksh. 336,000 allowances)
Air Vice MarshalKsh. 927,500 (Ksh. 695,625 basic salary and Ksh. 278,250 allowances)
Air CommodoreKsh. 906,014
Wing CommanderKsh. 153,317
Squadron LeaderKsh. 130,735
Flight LieutenantKsh. 102,106
Flying OfficerKsh. 73,182
CorporalKsh. 32,250
Leading Aircraftman IIKsh. 26,509
Leading AircraftmanKsh. 19,941
Kenya Air Force Monthly Salaries with ranks

Kenyan Navy ranks and salaries

The Kenya Navy, established by the Republic of Kenya in 1964, serves as the naval branch of the Kenya Defense Forces, with its headquarters in Mombasa. This maritime force comprises 18 vessels across various classes and operates from two primary naval bases. The main base, Mtongwe Naval Base in Mombasa, extends its influence to regions including Shimoni, Malindi, Msambweni, and Kilifi. The second critical naval base is in Manda Bay, a part of the Lamu Archipelago. Additionally, the Kenya Navy maintains naval stations in Shimoni, Msambweni, Malindi, and Kilifi. Its fleet is organized into three squadrons: the Pioneer 66 Squadron, the 76 Squadron, and the 86 Squadron.

A Special Operations Squadron, the Fleet Maintenance Unit, and a recently established elite Marine Ranger Regiment further support these naval assets. The Kenyan Navy plays a vital role in safeguarding the nation’s maritime interests, having been formed precisely one year after Kenya declared independence on December 12, 1964.

Kenyan Navy Officer ranks (lowest to highest)

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

Kenyan Navy salary

Here’s a table for the Kenya Navy salary:

RankMonthly Salary
Commander of Kenya NavyKsh. 902,432
CommodoreKsh. 927,500 (Ksh. 695,625 basic salary and Ksh. 278,250 allowances)
Admiral NavyKsh. 906,014
CaptainKsh. 153,317
CommanderKsh. 130,735
LieutenantKsh. 102,106
MidshipmanKsh. 73,182
Able SeamanKsh. 32,250
Leading SeamanKsh. 26,509
Junior SeamanKsh. 19,941
Kenya Navy Monthly Salaries with Rankings

Frequently Asked Questions About KDF Salaries in Kenya

How much does KDF earn per month?

The SRC estimates that a new KDF recruit or training cadet will make Ksh. 7,172 per month. The highest-paid military officer at the KDF level receives a pay of around Ksh 1,120,000 per month, which is for the Chief of Defense Forces.

What are the military ranks in order?

Below is a list of the military ranks in Kenya, from the senior-most posting to the junior rank, courtesy of the Ministry of Defense:

  • General
  • Lieutenant- General
  • Major-General
  • Brigadier
  • Colonel
  • Lieutenant-Colonel
  • Major
  • Captain
  • Lieutenant
  • Second-Lieutenant

How much is the KDF salary?

The salary in the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) varies based on an individual’s rank and length of military service. The lowest-ranking officer, a cadet in training, receives a monthly salary of Ksh. 7,172. As one progresses in position and completes training, their salary increases. For instance, a Lieutenant General earns between Ksh. 632,984 and Ksh. 800,000 per month, while the Chief of Defense Forces, one of the highest-ranking officers, receives a salary ranging from Ksh. 894,897 to Ksh. 1.2 million. These salary figures apply to the top two highest ranks within the KDF.

How long is KDF training?

The duration of KDF training is six months for foundational military training, followed by more specialized training at their respective units upon successful completion of the foundational training.

What are the military ranks from highest to lowest?

  • Second-Lieutenant
  • Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Major
  • Lieutenant-Colonel
  • Colonel
  • Brigadier
  • Major-General
  • Lieutenant-General
  • General

How much are KDF soldiers paid?

KDF soldiers are paid based on their ranks. For example, a new recruit who is undergoing training is paid a salary of KES 7172 per month. A KDF recruit is also referred to as a cadet, who is personnel still undergoing training; therefore, they are the lowest paid in the Kenyan military ranks. In comparison, the Chief of Defense Forces is the most-paid military officer in the Kenya Defense Forces, earning up to KES 1.2 million per month.

What is the average KDF salary in Kenya?

The average salary of a KDF in Kenya is between KES 7172 and KES 1.2 million. These salaries vary based on rank.

Do KDF pay tax?

While the military is subject to taxation, a significant portion of their allowances, especially those disbursed to officers deployed on United Nations or African Union missions, remain non-taxable. This development has provoked discontent among both junior and senior personnel, who are now seeking clarification from their superiors.

How much does a KDF driver earn?

A KDF driver makes between Ksh 14,610 and Ksh 16,250 per month, in addition to Ksh 3,000 in commuter and Ksh 4,000 in leave allowance. The pay and benefits for drivers and cooks are equal.