Ethiopian Airlines purchased military equipment in controversial Ethiopian invasion of Tigray

Eight months after Ethiopian Airlines announced plans to purchase military aircrafts from Turkey, the state-owned airline was involved in a military air operation during a controversial military operation in Ethiopia’s northwest. An article published…

Ethiopian Airlines purchased military equipment in controversial Ethiopian invasion of Tigray

Eight months after Ethiopian Airlines announced plans to purchase military aircrafts from Turkey, the state-owned airline was involved in a military air operation during a controversial military operation in Ethiopia’s northwest.

An article published by The Star on Monday is the first time that the company has acknowledged it procured military equipment during the war in the Tigray region. The continent’s first carrier to achieve a five-star safety rating by the European Aviation Safety Agency, Ethiopian Airlines is run by Ethiopian Airlines Group, a group that includes Ethiopian Airlines, Ethio-Air and Ethiopia Airways, and is owned by the Ethiopian government.

The article states that the equipment the company procured was used in the Ethiopian army’s Operation Achilles, which started in the Tigray region in June 2018 and was considered as being a political move following the overthrow of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in May. The Tigray conflict involved the Ethiopians and the Eritreans over disputed territory, and the Eritreans were accused of backing a breakaway faction of the Tigray National Liberation Front, which had supported the opposition during the country’s years of dissent.

A bullet from a Russian SKB-80E tank, which was delivered to the Ethiopian army for military use in June 2017. (Image by Iturday/Reuters)

But the nation’s new president, Abiy Ahmed, held a speech on Sunday in which he made a breakthrough in relations with Eritrea, a major step in regional politics and the very near future the continent’s largest economy.

Along with the newly delivered military equipment, the articles also include a Russian-made 60 mm anti-tank grenade launcher, a Russian-made Russian-made 30 mm anti-tank weapon, 17 Russian-made ZAK-101 guns and six Belgian-made anti-tank firearms.

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Previous major purchases of military equipment have been made by major national airlines, such as Air India and Iran’s national carrier. However, the vast majority of equipment in question belongs to the nation’s defense sector, and did not have civil aviation underpinnings. Ethiopian Airlines insisted that it only lent its aircrafts for operational use, even though the article references air tankers designed to carry weapons in and out of barracks, and the article cited a military officer that said weapons delivery had been scheduled.

According to The Star, Ethiopia has had a military apparatus since 1931, with the national army’s size fluctuating from 300 soldiers to nearly 400,000, though analysts noted that all the bases in Ethiopia are manned with less than 200 men, and the military doesn’t appear to exist for further purposes than security. The Civil Aviation Authority of Ethiopia denied knowledge of the arms purchases.

The procedure involved in obtaining arms from Russia is characterized by a U.S. Department of Commerce listing of FAA-allowed goods, including land arms, sea power systems, fixed-wing aircraft and general aviation. However, Western buyers often have to undergo regular reviews, require licensing and pass muster with the U.S. Department of State, which would deny Ethiopian Airlines or any other buyer from purchasing Russian military hardware based on the terms of the clearance.

Read the full story at The Star.

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