Ethiopia Acquiring Emirati and Chinese Drones

Wing Loong Baiweiflight.

Wing Loong Baiweiflight.

“The Ethiopian government has increased a large-scale recruitment drive in the army in the hopes that a string of purchases of an arsenal of drones and other weapons will be productive.”

On 25 November, the largely neutral Arab-language news service featured an article focused on the role of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in supplying unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to Ethiopia.  According to the article, Ethiopia’s interest in UAS from the UAE accelerated after the war began in November 2020 and the Ethiopian army faced greater resistance from the Tigrayan rebels than expected.  The article suggests that supplying the Ethiopian army has become more difficult for the UAE since the Tigrayan rebels captured two bases in Aksum and Samara in the northern Tigray region, leaving the military base in Harar, south of Addis Ababa, as another option to supply the Ethiopian army.

However, the article emphasizes that several other countries are providing UAS to Ethiopia in addition to the UAE.  For example, the article reports that China’s Wing Loong UAS was seen at the Harar military base.  Additionally, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation on 8 October featured an Amharic-language interview of Ethiopian General Yilma Merdassa, who was seated near a model of the Wing Loong.  General Merdassa acknowledged that Ethiopia had received the UAS from China. The article also reports that Turkish drones are among the UAE’s purchases,UAS are a key part of the Ethiopian government’s last ditch efforts to ward off the Tigrayan rebels before they rebels approach the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.


“الجسر الجوي الإماراتي يقدم دعما عسكريا للحكومة الإثيوبية (The UAE air bridge provides military support to the Ethiopian government),” (Arabic-language news outlet focusing on current military and technology affairs from a neutral perspective), 25 November 2021.

Satellite images show that the UAE is providing significant support to the Ethiopian army in the fight against the Tigrayan forces.The UAE opened an air bridge to provide military support to the Ethiopian government in its war against forces in the northern Tigray region.Between September and November, there were more than 90 flights between the UAE and Ethiopia, many of which deliberately concealed where they took off and where they landed.

Flight maps and satellite images show aircraft recently arriving from the Sweihan base in Abu Dhabi, UAE, to the Harar Meda base, south of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The footage shows a Chinese-made Wing Loong drone, the first such aircraft ever to be documented at Ethiopian military bases.

The images also reveal that bases in Samara and Aksum were run over following clashes with Tigray forces, who said this week that they are about 200 kilometers from Addis Ababa. In recent weeks, the Ethiopian government has increased a large-scale recruitment drive in the army in the hopes that a string of purchases of an arsenal of drones and other weapons will be productive. The Ethiopian government signed a military cooperation agreement with Turkey in August, amid reports that it wanted to deploy drones to the war.

Source:  “የመሻገሪያ ዘመን -ሜ/ጀነራል ይልማ መርዳሳ የኢፌዲሪ አየር ኃይል ዋና አዛዥ(Maj. Gen. Yilma Merdasa, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force ),” Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (an Ethiopian government-owned public service broadcaster), 8 September 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Wing Loong Baiweiflight.
Attribution: CC x 3.0