Monday, 13 September 2021

Israeli Arms In Ethiopia: The Thunder IMV


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The time when the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) almost solely relied on aging Soviet armament mixed in with some of their more modern Russian brethens is long gone. Over the past decade, Ethiopia has diversified its arms imports to include a number of other sources that presently include nations such as China, Germany, Ukraine and Belarus. Arguably more surprising is the presence of countries like Israel and the UAE in this list, which have supplied Ethiopia with a number of specialised weapon systems.

Israel has proved a popular source of armament for many African countries, supplying them with anything from small arms to drones and even naval vessels. Ethiopia first established military ties with Israel in the 1950s under Emperor Haile Sellassie I. Interestingly, Ethiopian military cooperation with Israel continued even under the communist-socialist state that existed in Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. During this era, the government of Mengistu maintained close relationships to both Arab countries and Israel, although the latter in near secrecy so as to not upset its Arab allies.

Only in recent years the strong ties between Ethiopia and Israel also materialised in the delivery of military equipment 'Made in Israel'. One of these is the Thunder infantry mobility vehicle (IMV), which so far has entered service with Ethiopia and Cameroon. In the case of the former, it was to assemble the vehicles in-country in an effort to build up the knowledge and capabilities of Ethiopia's indigenous arms industry. Similar constructions have been put up with Ukraine and China, showing that such efforts are anything but a token effort to fortify Ethiopia's prowess in this field.
 

Between 2011 and 2013, the Israeli Gaia Automotive company was awared a contract to deliver 80 Thunder IMVs to Ethiopia. [1] The first 5 vehicles were manufactured in Israel while the materiels for the building of 75 more vehicles, as well as all the required factory equipment, were shipped to Ethiopia. Gaia assembled another five Thunder IMVs in Ethiopia, after which the Ethiopians completed the remaining 70 vehicles on their own. The valuable experience gained by the Ethiopian side in projects like these is sure to help the country in future endeavours to construct armoured vehicles of its own.
 

The Thunder IMV is based on the chassis of a commercially available Ford pickup truck. The superstructure (i.e. driver's cabin) is stripped off in its entirety, leaving only the chassis and the engine in place. Sections of the armoured body are then placed on the barren chassis and welded in place before additional equipment is fitted to the newly-fabricated vehicle. As a finishing touch, the original tires are then replaced by military-grade ones to enable the Thunder IMV to cross rough terrain.
 

The ENDF appears to be operating its Thunder IMVs in at least four different configurations, including one fitted with a dozer blade. Although this configuration appears of little use for conventional military operations, the dozer blade is well suited for clearing barricades put up by protestors during demonstrations. These have frequently occurred throughout Ethiopia's modern existence, with the anti-government protests of 2014 to 2016 arguably being the most significant such events, leading to a change of government in 2018.

The military police also operates its own dedicated variant, which appears to be fitted with a small searchlight. In addition, the Ethiopian Army operates a dedicated ambulance variant and a version equipped with a 12.7mm DShK heavy machine gun (HMG). The latter version constitutes the only variant equipped with fixed armament. Each Thunder IMV also comes equipped with a total of seven firing ports (three on each side, one on the rear) from which the crew can fire their personal weapons to fend off enemy attacks.
 

The Thunder IMV is not the only type of Israeli equipment currently in service with the ENDF. In order to equip some of its elite (at least in name) Republican Guard units, Ethiopia acquired a small number of IWI Tavor TAR-21 assault rifles from Israel as well. Perhaps more significantly, the Ethiopian Air Force operates at least two types of Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This includes the Aerostar UAV and the WanderB mini UAS, the latter having been purchased in 2011 to form Ethiopia's first UAV regiment. [2]


Behind an arsenal of mostly Soviet, Russian and Chinese armament exotic equipment fills in the gaps. Whether it was sourced from Israel, North Korea or Germany, such equipment has typically flown under the radar, attracting little attention from analysts or the general public. With the sale of Moahjer-6s UCAVs by Iran, it appears the market for armament in this corner of Africa continues growing however, with the list of suppliers growing to meet its increased demand. With the conflict in its Tigray region continuing to rage, this exotic armament will surely be put to use here as well, if it hasn't been already.
 

[1] The Establishment of an APC Production Line in Ethiopia http://gaia-auto.com/en/the-establishment-of-an-apc-production-line-in-ethiopia/

22 comments:

  1. A good partnership, but Ethiopia needs more of it, from several sources. Ethiopia needs it's own defense industry, it's the only way to safeguard sovereignty. Ethiopia under the previous TPLF-dictatorship has very deliberatly neglected Ethiopia's indiginous infant defense industry, and we are facing the consequences of that. Those times are over now.

    It doesn't matter what the source is Israel, North-Korea, Iran, Turkey, Cuba, Ukraine, India, South-Africa or China. All of them are welcome to contribute to Ethiopia's diversification.

    Side note: The West has too many restrictions, and are too expensive. Russia is also getting stingy and increasingly expensive, no wonder China is taking slices of Russia's exports.

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    1. Not only will Ethiopia have to end the Western backed TPLF junta. Ethiopia needs to rebuild it's military from scratch and achieve parity with Egypt & Sudan to permanently safeguard it's interests.

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    2. Worry about how to feed our people 1st b4 funding ways to kill them.

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    3. People aren't enjoying a meal while this group continues to wreck havoc on civilians.
      Ethiopia is in a civil war with a group that wants to disintegrate our nation, and the West and it's crooked media is helping to sustain this armed group.

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    4. The world has learned enough lessons that when nations are heading to the abyss they start blaming the west and media, in an extreme situations like Ethiopia even the UN and Aide Agencies. Ethiopia is doomed when you support a blood thirsty leader.

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    5. Dead system cannot be revived by weapons, go to round table and negotiate.

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    6. The Godere Amhara elites are now pro-China and against the West just to acquire weapons and kill fellow Ethiopians. Sadly, they can't keep their new weapons since TDF is snatching them in the battle field in masses. Sad!

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    7. We must critically evaluate the current global alliance. Thus, let us do our own assignment, reform our politics, diplomacy, strengthen our national defense force than ever and establish a reliable Millinery partnership. May God bless Ethiopia!!!

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  2. Many Ethiopian consider the state of Israel as close friend and always assumed to be with the Ethiopian side in time of need. in the recent cases, however, many Ethiopian think Israel instead stood with Egypt and Sudan in the dispute over the Nile Dam and the Ethio-Sudan border disputes.

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    1. Yeah on what basis? Ethiopia has had many troubles over the past 70 years, Israel never came through. We also have no treaty or anything with them. We have cultural/economic/family ties through the Ethiopian jews, and that's basically it to be honest.

      A close friend should only reserved for the very few, Israel is not one of them in my opinion. A friendly state, but not a close friend. A close friend(such as Cuba & Portugal) came through when it counted.

      We should build our own defense industry, rather than forever rely on not so reliable sources. We need technology transfers from mutiple countries.

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  3. Ethiopian's always assume Israel as a natural allay due to religious and historical ties but in my view Israel is unreliable friend it showed its view flactuating when it comes crucial times mainly in dispute regards dam with Egypt. So Ethiopians need to accept the fact and deal with it.

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    1. Ancient Israel and current Israel are two different things/subjects and also two totally different people. Ethiopia has deep cultural ties to Ancient Israel. Not so much with today's Israel.

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  4. Ethiopian defense was strong during EPRDF that is why Egypt was quiet. Now it is completely destroyed by the Tigray forces due Abiy's, Ezema's, and Amhara elites' miscalculation. Isayas achieved what he wanted, did not miscalculate that much.

    Just like Derg purchased military equipment from Russia and lost. Abiy will lose regardless. As yourselves: where is the ENDF (real, seniors), commandos, fighter jets! Ethiopia is effectively disarmed!! What we are seeing junior troops who ve no cause to fight but pushed to the war thru propaganda. As soon as they are the frontline and hear the roar of artilleries, they retreat.

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    1. Israel's interest is currently aligned with Egypt and Saudi-arabia. Historical alliance does not apply here. I don't trust their current prime minister who is too close to dictators Al-sisi and MBS. According to the news there have been a few silent meetings with the Egyptian intelligence and Bennett recently met with Al-sisi about the Ethiopian dam. Besides the drones that were getting close to the dam to allegedly take photos sounds like a maneuver to disarm the dam.

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    2. 27 years in power and despite all the favoritism towards Tigray, useless TPLF couldn't produce air force pilots. The TPLF shell name(EPRDF) made sure the air force was deliberatly kept very small with no precision strike capabilities, out of sheer tribalism towards the Amhara.

      The air force has been since inception an Amhara domain, Amharas have even female pilots while Tigray can't even produce male pilots.

      TPLF fighters were 50% of the ENDF personell and Tigray had more than 50% of heavy weaponry in the country. Tigray also has by far the most small fire arms in the country.
      TPLF were preparing for this for decades.

      Everyone was fighting the Derg, TPLF only showed up in the last 3 years of the conflict after receiving aid from the CIA front through aid organizations. Amharas were divided in three camps(pro communist, pro-monarchist & pro democracy) and received zero assistance from any white savior.

      The difference is Tigray is a willing stooge for foreign powers, and will grovel to get their support. While Amhara values the independence of Ethiopia first and foremost.

      Amhara has zero intention to bend the knee for the US or Europe, while Tigray is ready and willing to bribe and lobby foreigners to smear Ethiopia.

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    3. @UNKNOWN There's no historical alliance since current day Israel was foundend? Maybe only in words, or perception by others, but not in action. Israel never came through for Ethiopia when it needed an ally.

      The warm feelings of Ethiopians towards Israel, is due to cultural/historical ties with Ancient Israel, very different from today's Israel.

      We have ofcourse close ties with the Ethiopian community there, but for the rest not much.

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  5. Ethiopia have to solve the faced problem by only discussing with armed forces in the country rather than supplied with a number of specialised weapon systems!

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  6. Israel has good relationship with Ethiopia. Mostly it's secret.

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  7. Ethiopia's problem is far from milatary defence capability.
    Israel should not provide support abiy's regime.

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  8. What type of equipment did Ethiopia receive from Germany?

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  9. All is history now,thanks to the unholy alliance Abiyi and Amhara elite, 75% of ENDF and its armaments are wiped out by much stronger TDF.The very survival of the Ethiopian empire is at stake leave alone strong army.

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  10. The dozer blade might also protect the wheels from the front, additionally it might be have a limited ability to clear small mines because it appearers to be able to dig into the ground a bit.

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