Mali commissions new aircraft

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Mali’s armed forces have commissioned a range of new aircraft into service, including L-39, Mi-8, Su-25 and C295 aircraft.

Air Force Chief of Staff General Alou Boi Diarra officially received the aircraft from transition president and armed forces commander Colonel Assimi Goïta on 9 August in a ceremony at Modibo Keita International Airport in Bamako-Sénou. Other dignitaries present were Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga, defence minister Sadio Camara, and the Russian ambassador to Mali, as much of the new equipment was sourced from Russia.

The aircraft handed over included one Su-25 jet, four L-39 jet trainers, an Mi-24P attack helicopter, an Mi-8 transport helicopter and a single Airbus C295 tactical transport aircraft. The C295 aircraft arrived on 31 May and is the second to be acquired, with the first delivered in December 2016. Delivery of the second aircraft was delayed by US sanctions following Mali’s recent coups and allegations the army was recruiting child soldiers.

Two Mi-24Ps were delivered to Mali on 30 March this year, along with Protivnik-GE/59N6-TE mobile radars from Russia. Mali also recently acquired four Mi-35s from Russia.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms transfers database, Mali in 2020 ordered four Mi-8MT/Mi-17Sh helicopters from Russia for $61 million including training and weapons, with deliveries from 2021. The Su-25s and L-39s appear to be new acquisitions as well.

In his speech, Camara said the new equipment is part of the country’s vision to rebuild a professional military that is well-equipped, well trained and has good morale. For his part, Diarra said the new aircraft significantly strengthen the Air Force and will be used to destroy terrorist bases and hideouts. The new acquisitions will also improve the military’s mobility and its ability to evacuate the wounded and sick and provide humanitarian relief to the population.

Mali’s Air Force has grown over the last several years, with fixed and rotary wing acquisitions. In October 2017 then Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita welcomed new aircraft into the Air Force’s inventory, including a C-295W transport, two Y-12E light utility aircraft and a Super Puma transport helicopter (out of two ordered). In July 2018 Mali received four Embraer Super Tucano light attack and trainer aircraft from Brazil after ordering them in 2015. In April 2019 Mali’s Air Force received a Cessna 208 Caravan configured for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) that was donated by the European Union to combat terrorism and insecurity.

Mali has been battered by an extremist campaign that began in the north of the country in 2012, with attacks spreading into Niger and Burkina Faso as well. As a result, Mali has turned to Russia to supply equipment and paramilitary forces to shore up its military.