Mali receives more Bayraktar TB2 UAVs

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The Armed Forces of Mali have received another consignment of Baykar Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey.

The Malian Presidency said the aircraft were officially delivered during a 4 January ceremony attended by Transition President Colonel Assimi Goita at Modibo Keita International Airport in the capital Bamako. Also in attendance was the Turkish ambassador and Mali’s minister of defence.

Five Bayraktar TB2s were seen during the reception ceremony, some armed with MAM-L laser-guided bombs made by Roketsan. One had the serial TZ-17D, indicating Mali now has at least 17 of the UAVs in service, as Mali had previously displayed TB2s with serials from TZ-01D to TZ-06D, Janes reported.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Brigadier General Alou Boï Diarra, said recent drone strikes have been carried out to secure the country – Mali’s military regularly releases footage of TB2s carrying out air strikes against terrorists – and he congratulated soldiers for fighting ‘a tough fight on the ground’.

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 and Turkey to supply equipment and paramilitary forces to shore up its military.

Diarra added that the war is certainly not over despite the positive results and all the efforts made, and also highlighted the efforts of militaries of the Sahel to secure common borders.

Defence Minister, Colonel Sadio Camara, said Mali has been regenerating it military capabilities over the last three years and thanked Russia, China, and Turkey for its assistance in this regard.

In mid-March 2023, Mali’s Air Force accepted a variety of new hardware into service, including TB2s from Turkey and L-39 trainer and light attack jets from Russia.

The UAVs have been in service for some time, with two being displayed at Air Base 200 at Mopti-Sevare airport in December 2022, but official induction only came in March last year. Mali became the fifth country in West Africa to acquire Bayraktar TB2s after Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo and Nigeria.

At least nine L-39s have been acquired – some of these were inducted in January 2023, along with two Mi-8 helicopters (TZ-94H and TZ-95H), and a single Su-25 strike aircraft (TZ-25C). The latter replaced a Su-25 (TZ-29C) that crashed in October 2022, killing the Russian pilot. That aircraft was delivered from Russia in August 2022, along with a single 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 is the second to be acquired, with the first delivered in December 2016. Two Mi-24Ps were delivered to Mali on 30 March 2022, 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.