Saturday 4 September 2021

List Of Aircraft Losses Of The Tigray War (2020-2021)

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

A war that broke out between the Ethiopian government and its northern Tigray region has thrown the country into turmoil. Armed conflict has been raging since November 2020, killing thousands and displacing millions. The escalation came after months of tensions between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) political party. For nearly three decades, the TPLF was at the centre of power in Ethiopia after defeating the communist-socialist state that existed in Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. Tigrayan officials were able to dominate the government despite only accounting for some five per cent of the Ethiopian population. After a wave of anti-government protests from 2014 to 2016, a new government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018. Abiy pressed reforms that sought to curb the power of the TPLF, much to the dismay of the Tigrayans. In response, Tigray, held its own regional elections and tensions increased to the point of open hostilities. The political crisis erupted into war when TPLF forces attacked Ethiopian Army bases in Tigray in November 2020.
In response, the Ethiopian Army launched an invasion of the Tigray Region. After initial successes, a TDF counterattack managed to drive Ethiopian forces out of Tigray, and the TDF currently continues to press on its offensives into Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) has seen heavy action during all stages of the conflict, flying close air support missions with MiG-23BN fighter-bombers and Mi-35 helicopters and hauling manpower and equipment through the embattled region using transport aircraft and helicopters. The Eritrean Air Force is also frequently reported to have participated in the conflict with its MiG-29 fighter aircraft, although no evidence has ever been presented to support these claims. 
Tigray forces have come in the possession of several weapon systems that can be used to target aircraft, including at least three S-125 and one S-75 SAM sites, numerous Igla-1 man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) and more than a dozen of 23mm ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns. [1] The TDF appears to have used its captured MANPADS on numerous occasions, possibly downing as much as three ETAF aircraft and helicopters. Less is known about the deployment of the S-75 and S-125 SAM systems, although several missile wreckages encountered throughout Tigray confirms their use by the TDF. [2] [3]

A Tigray fighter aims his 9K310 Igla-1 MANPADS. Igla-1s are claimed to have been responsible for downing at least three Ethiopian Air Force aircraft.

A S-125 SAM site under Tigray ownership

As witnessed in most conflicts, propaganda on both sides is rampant, with false claims of downings published by the Tigray side on a regular basis.

Claims like these are frequently posted with no evidence to back them up

This list aims to catalogue visually confirmed Ethiopian aircraft losses during the Tigray War. This list will be updated as new downings occur.

Lost Aircraft (3)


Lost Helicopters (2)

1x MiG-23BN fighter-bomber on the 29th of November 2020. Reportedly shot down by MANPADS. The pilot ejected and was captured alive.

1x MiG-23BN fighter-bomber on the 6th of December 2020. Crashed short of the runway of Shire (Indaselassie) Airport, Tigray Region, while attempting an emergency landing.

1x L-100-30 Hercules transport aircraft. Believed to have been shot down by MANPADS near Gijet, Tigray Region, on the 23rd of June 2021. The aircraft was previously in service with Ethiopian Airlines. Footage of the crash can be viewed here.

1x Mi-35 attack helicopter. Believed to have been shot down by MANPADS near Abiy Adi, Tigray Region, on the 20th of April 2021.

1x Mi-35 attack helicopter. Believed to have been shot down by MANPADS near Afar, on the 12th of November 2021.

[1] The Tigray Defence Forces - Documenting Its Heavy Weaponry