Ethiopia has expressed interest in acquiring 18 helicopters and two C295 transport aircraft from Airbus.
Africa Intelligence at the beginning of June reported that France had paused negotiations for the sale of the helicopters and transport aircraft at the beginning of the year, but “German diplomats may succeed in putting the project back on the table.” Some of the delays are believed to be over the coronavirus pandemic.
In November last year, Le Point International published a copy of a letter Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali apparently sent to French President Emmanuel Macron mentioning that in line with the defence cooperation agreement signed earlier that year, the country was seeking to strengthen its armed forces, particularly its air force.
The letter, dated 22 July 2019, quotes Ali as saying, “I kindly request your support in facilitating a long-term loan through which Ethiopia will be able to procure transport and multi-role helicopters, multi-role transport airplanes, fighter helicopters, multi-role fighter aircraft, strategic and operational unmanned air vehicles/drones, strategic missile complex systems, and electronic jamming resilience capability systems. These procurements also require capacity building of pilots and technicians that will operate the equipment.”
The letter mentioned “potential areas of cooperation in air force capacity building” as the procurement of six 12-ton class transport helicopters such as the H225, the procurement of six H125M and H145M multi-role helicopters, and the procurement of two multi-role transport aircraft such as the C295. The letter also mentioned the procurement of six Tiger HAD attack helicopters, twelve fighter jets (such as the Mirage 2000/N/D or Rafale), the procurement of six UAVs (Dassault nEUROns), thirty medium range intercontinental ballistic missiles (M51.1/M51.2/M51.3), jammers, electronic countermeasures and other related systems.
It is not clear how Ethiopia would pay for all this equipment nor how willing France would be to provide it considering tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia – Egypt is one of France’s largest defence export clients.