Ethiopia acquires Akinci UAVs, Su-30 fighters

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The Ethiopian Air Force (EAF) has acquired Akinci unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey and Russian Sukhoi Su-30K combat aircraft as it continues with modernisation efforts.

The Ethiopian National Defence Force said the Su-30K aircraft were introduced into service during a ceremony on Tuesday 16 January.

Chief of General Staff, Field Marshal Birhanu Jula, said that acquiring the Su-30s and UAVs is crucial to preventing attacks on Ethiopia. He added that efforts to build a capable air force will continue.

Commander of the Ethiopian Air Force, Lieutenant General Yilma Merdasa, said the service is being strengthened with modern manpower, weapons and combat infrastructure and the new Su-30s are able to destroy enemy targets both in the air and on land.

Two Su-30Ks (2401 and 2402) were seen during the induction ceremony. It is believed that these are part of a batch of 18 (ten Su-30MK and eight Su-30K fighters) manufactured for the Indian Air Force and delivered between 1997 and 1999. These were subsequently returned to Russia in 2007 and replaced by more modern Su-30MKI models.

In 2011, the 18 Su-30Ks were transported to the 558th aircraft repair plant in Baranovichi, Belarus, where they were stored for the purpose of further resale. In 2013, Angola acquired 12 of these, with delivery from 2017 to 2019. These were upgraded to Su-30SM standard, giving them the ability to fire anti-ship and air-to-air missiles.

It appears Ethiopia has acquired the six remaining Su-30Ks, with deliveries of the last four still to come.

The Baykar Bayraktar Akinci UAVs, meanwhile, were first observed in November last year. Video footage of Bayraktar TB3 UAV flight testing in Turkey showed an Akinci with the tail number S40 wearing an Ethiopian flag. It is unclear how many Akincis Ethiopia has acquired. Based on the video, it appears Ethiopia’s Akincis are in A model configuration with two 450 hp engines.

The Akinci can reach an altitude of 11 000 metres and has a 25 hour endurance. It can be armed with a variety of weapons – the Ethiopian aircraft have been seen with underwing MAM-L missiles manufactured by Roketsan.

Since 2021, Ethiopia has operated Bayraktar TB2S UAVs, with at least four deployed at Bahir Dar and Harar Meda Air Bases. These have been used against the Tigray People’s Liberation Forces, along with Wing Loong and Qods Mohajer-6 UAVs acquired from China and Iran respectively. It is likely the new Akinci UAVs will also be used in combat.