Africa Defense Forum
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Ethiopia Expands Air Fleet With C-130 Cargo Plane

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Air Force Contributes to Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia

ADF STAFF

The residents of Bishoftu, Ethiopia, a lakeside town 25 kilometers south of the capital city, are accustomed to the rumble of jets taking off and landing at the Ethiopian Air Force’s (ETAF) Central Air Base.

In June 2018, they heard the roar of a refurbished, C-130E Hercules cargo aircraft donated by the United States government. The intent of this donation was to further develop the ETAF’s capacity to resupply peacekeeping forces in the region and to respond to humanitarian crises.

The delivery of the aircraft also was celebrated by honoring John Robinson, a determined African-American pilot who fought for Ethiopia and is buried there. Representatives of the American and Ethiopian air forces together laid a wreath at Robinson’s grave on June 5, 2018.

The next day at Central Air Base, Gen. Adem Mohammed conducted a tour of simulator training facilities and the Ethiopian Air Force Academy before escorting the delegation to the flight line to show off the new C-130E. 

Ethiopia’s Number 15 Squadron will make good use of its new plane. The Ethiopian National Defense Force contributes more personnel to United Nations peacekeeping operations than any other country. According to U.N. figures, as of June 2018, the East African nation was responsible for 8,508 personnel — about 1,400 more than the second contributor, Bangladesh. 

Ethiopia’s commitment to international peacekeeping operations dates to 1951, when Ethiopian Soldiers were an important part of the U.N. multinational force in the Korean War. In 1953, the U.S. government agreed to help Ethiopia’s military enter the jet age. By 1961, Ethiopia operated F-86F fighters and T-33 and T-28 jet trainers. 

The current Ethiopian fleet is estimated to consist of 24 fighter craft, seven transport planes, 25 helicopters and about 14 trainers. 

The ETAF currently helps staff the African Union Mission in Somalia. In September 2018, the Shabelle Media Network reported, members of the ETAF carried out an airstrike against al-Shabaab after learning of plans by the extremist group to attack the Ethiopian contingent.

The contingent killed about 70 al-Shabaab militants and destroyed two vehicles packed with weapons. Brig. Gen. Yilma Merdassa, chief of ETAF, told Fana Broadcasting that the airstrike was conducted after an extensive study.

He said, “We achieved 100 percent of our plans.”  

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