United States embassy officials in Addis Ababa have confirmed that the Ethiopian government has received a single Lockheed C-130E Hercules transport aircraft from the United States for tactical airlift of troops and equipment to support Ethiopian participation in AU and UN peacekeeping operations.
The aircraft was previously operated by the Puerto Rico National Guard where it was flown by the 198th Airlift Squadron, according to Air Forces Daily. After retirement from the US Air Force, it was put in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in September, 2013, having flown a total of 22 739 flight hours. Early the following year it was taken out of storage and prepared for delivery to Ethiopia. The aircraft in early June 2014 flew to Ethiopia, making stops in Canada and the United Kingdom.
A statement from the US embassy in Addis Ababa said the donation came with full training support for Ethiopian pilots, technicians and engineers with specially focused programmes on navigation and maintenance processes. An embassy spokesperson said there are no existing plans to provide any additional aircraft.
The Ethiopian Air Force’s 15 Squadron has flown C-130s since 1998 when it received two former US Air Force C-130Bs and later two commercial L100-30 variants that were previously operated by the Ethiopian Government. It is not clear if the aircraft are still operational.
The C-130 is a welcome boost to the Ethiopian Air Force after it lost an Antonov An-12 in a crash at Mogadishu International Airport on 9 August 2013. The aircraft was delivering ammunition to help the Somali government combat al Shabaab militants.
The Ethiopian Air Force has also lost a number of aircraft to neighbouring Eritrea and Kenya through defecting pilots and technicians. In December, a senior air force pilot, his co-pilot and a technician escaped Ethiopia in the Mi-35 attack helicopter they were flying on a training mission and landed in the Eritrean town of Aishidada where they were granted political asylum. Since last year, Ethiopia has been trying to use diplomatic channels at various levels to secure the return of its aircraft but to no avail.