3rd Country To Deploy Akinci UAVs, Ethiopia Welcomes Su-30 Fighters, Bayraktar Drones Into Its Arsenal

Ethiopia has welcomed the arrival of Sukhoi Su-30 ‘Flanker’ fighter jets and Baykar Bayraktar Akıncı armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to enhance its defense capabilities.

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (FDRE Defense Force) officially confirmed the delivery of an undisclosed number of Su-30s on January 16. The country has also released a video depicting the induction of these aircraft into service.

Field Marshal Birhanu Jula, the Chief of General Staff of the FDRE Defense Force, emphasized Ethiopia’s commitment to equipping its defense forces with cutting-edge technology to safeguard its airspace.

He stated, “We will continue to be equipped with modern weapons that can defend our airspace from any attack.”

He highlighted the FDRE Air Force’s acquisition of the latest Su-30 fighter jets and the Akıncı strategic unmanned aircraft as a significant step in this direction.

Photographs released by the FDRE Defense Force showcase two twin-seat Su-30 aircraft with tail numbers 2401 and 2402, featuring a distinctive desert-style camouflage paint scheme.

Ethiopia’s acquisition of the Su-30 fighter jet marks a significant milestone, positioning the country as the fourth African operator of this Russian-made aircraft. 

By joining the ranks of Algeria, Uganda, and Angola, Ethiopia underscores its commitment to enhancing its air defense capabilities by incorporating advanced military aircraft.

Despite the announcement, the specific variant of the Su-30 acquired by Ethiopia remains undisclosed. The Su-30 has several variants with diverse features and capabilities, which makes it a versatile and adaptable asset for various strategic needs.

The Ethiopian Air Force received Russian "first generation" Su-30K fighters.
Ethiopian Air Force Su-30 fighter. Twitter

Moreover, the number of Su-30 fighters in Ethiopia’s procurement plan is yet to be confirmed. The Su-30 seen during the induction ceremony is considered part of a batch initially manufactured for the Indian Air Force between 1997 and 1998.

This particular set of Su-30s underwent a notable operational trajectory. In 2007, they were returned to Russia in exchange for 18 advanced Su-30MKI fighters.

Subsequently, the 18 Su-30Ks were transferred in 2011 to the 558th aircraft repair plant in Baranovichi, Belarus, where they were stored for potential resale.

Belarus initially showed interest in purchasing the entire fleet of eighteen jets, but a disagreement over credit lines disrupted the deal. Subsequently, Vietnam expressed interest, but the fleet was turned down in favor of more modern and advanced hardware.

In 2013, Angola signed a deal to acquire 12 Su-30Ks from this particular batch, with the deliveries taking place over the period spanning from 2017 to 2019. Notably, these aircraft were upgraded to the Su-30SM standard for Angola.

It appears that Ethiopia has secured the remaining six Su-30Ks from this batch. Some accounts suggest that deliveries of the last four Su-30 fighter jets are still pending. 

Baykar Bayraktar Akıncı

Ethiopia’s other addition to its arsenal is the Akinci UCAV, acknowledged worldwide as one of the most advanced combat drones.

This unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) from Turkish manufacturer Baykar has garnered prominence for its cutting-edge features and versatile capabilities.

Ethiopia, now the third foreign nation to employ this advanced drone, follows in the footsteps of Pakistan and Libya, highlighting the global adoption of the Akinci as a highly advanced unmanned combat aerial vehicle.

In recent years, Ethiopia has embarked on an initiative to bolster and modernize its air force capabilities. This undertaking includes acquiring various unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Since 2021, Ethiopia has successfully operated Bayraktar TB2S UAVs, strategically deploying at least four units at Bahir Dar and Harar Meda Air Bases.

Furthermore, the nation has expanded its UAV fleet with Wing Loong and Qods Mohajer-6, sourced from China and Iran. 

File Image: Akinci Drone

These technological advancements have not merely been symbolic, as Ethiopia actively utilized these UAVs in operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Forces, a rebel group engaged in conflict with the federal government.

Introducing Baykar Bayraktar Akinci UAVs added another dimension to Ethiopia’s aerial capabilities. First spotted in November 2023, video footage shared by Baykar Chairman Selçuk Bayraktar displayed an Akinci with the tail number S40 adorned with the Ethiopian flag.

While the exact number of Akinci units in Ethiopia remains undisclosed, the configuration seems to align with the A model, featuring two 450-hp engines.

Ethiopia is expected to leverage its newly acquired assets, the Su-30 fighter jet and Akinci combat drone, in operations against the rebel forces.