Wednesday, 1 September 2021

The Tigray Defence Forces - Documenting Its Heavy Weaponry

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.
Perhaps contrary to popular expectation, Tigray forces operate a sizeable arsenal of tanks, artillery and even took possession of long-range guided rockets and ballistic missiles. Yes, you've read that right: ballistic missiles. While the capture of ballistic missiles by rebel forces is nothing new, it is less common when they also start putting them to use. Even more rare is when these are used to target another country entirely, which is exactly what Tigray forces did. Reportedly launched in response to the presence of Eritrean troops in the Tigray Region, Tigray forces fired at least three missiles at Eritrea's capital Asmara hours after it warned Eritrea that such an attack may be imminent. [1] Around the same time, Tigray forces (meanwhile morphed into the Tigray Defences Forces) also fired Chinese M20 SRBMs against Ethiopian air bases in Bahir Dar and Gondar in retaliation for Ethiopian air strikes in Tigray. [2]
As of September 2021, TDF forces continue to press on their offensives into Ethiopia, with control over areas going back and forth as no end to the conflict appears in sight. Undoubtedly in an attempt to change the country's fortunes, Ethiopia has begun acquiring Mohajer-6 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) from Iran. Whether its fleet of Iranian, Israeli and Chinese UAVs is enough to stem the TDF's seemingly unstoppable advance is uncertain, and we might well see additional drone acquisitions by Ethiopia in the near future in an effort to secure the military breakthrough the country is looking for.
A map of the conflict zone showing the respective areas of control can be seen here. This map is updated as the war progresses. 

A detailed list of heavy weaponry confirmed to have been operated by the Tigray Defence Forces can be viewed below. This list is constantly updated as additional footage becomes available. This list only includes vehicles and equipment of which photo or videographic evidence is available. Therefore, the amount of equipment captured and operated by Tigray forces is significantly higher than what is recorded here. Tigray was home to a significant portion of the Ethiopian Army's heavy weaponry, much of which fell in the hands of Tigray forces in November 2020. Large numbers were subsequently recaptured by Ethiopia however, and therefore could not be included in the list. Not all heavy weaponry is operated by the TDF at the same time, with some entries already lost in action. Small arms, mortars, ATGMs and trucks are not included in this list.

(Click on the numbers to get a picture of each individual vehicle)

Tanks (86)

Armoured recovery vehicles (1)

  • 1 BTS-5B: (1)    

Armoured personnel carriers (30)


Towed artillery (64)

Multiple rocket launchers (16)

Ballistic missile launcher (1)

  • 1 M20/A200 TEL: (1) (Used in the missile strike on Bahir Dar airbase in November 2020)

Rocket and Missile support vehicles (4)

Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (12)


Anti-aircraft guns (27)


Surface-to-air missile systems (13 launchers in 4 sites)

  • 1 S-75 ''SA-2'' site: (1)
  • 3 S-125 ''SA-3'' sites: (1) (2) (3)

Radars (7)

  • 1 P-18 'Spoon Rest D': (1)
  • 2 ST86U/36D6 'Tin Shield': (1) (2)
  • 1 SNR-75 'Fan Song' (for S-75): (1)
  • 3 SNR-125 'Low Blow' (for S-125): (1) (2) (3)


  1. great effort was made to make this article but most of the thing said are not true. here is why.
    when the was broke out last November TDF or the Tigray rebels had in control of 80 percent of Ethiopian weaponry including five mechanized units out of six in the country, but as the war progress they lost all of it, PM Abiy Ahmed at one point said the reason why ENDF withdraw from Tigray was that 'we have disarmed TPLF their is no reason to stay their' also TDFs war leader gen. Tsadkan had admitted this to BBC last month by saying the reason have retreat from Mekelle the capital of Tigray and other main city's was that ENDF Destroyed our weaponeer's also TDFs spokesman getachew reda told Tigray Tv last month that before ENDF forces leave Tigray they (TDF) only have Kalashnikovs also Getachew few weeks back told kello media YouTube channel they now have 30 tanks.
    the other fact is that some of the images shown above are weapons ENDF captivated weapons from TDF
    2 destroyed by ENDF drones
    - Also their is no proof the NUMBERS like Man-Portable Air Defense Systems and other heavy weapons because one Man-Portable Air Defense Systems is enough to make 100 photos with 100 individuals but one weapon
    - Also radars and heavy military's equipment's have bean moved out of Tigray after ENDF have controlled Tigray couple of months back, PM Abiy Ahmed mentioned this to the house of federations couple of weeks ago
    - Anti-aircraft guns, i dont see how you come with 16, yes their are 16 photos but their is no clear difference with them except the first two

  2. Nice try!!!! Trying to make TPLF look alive. There never will be a talk with the terrorist group and an Ethiopian government, that really plans to lead the country. A talk with them means, betting on the country. The people won't allow a talk between a terrorist and a government. This is not the new Biden's US, but Ethiopia!!!

  3. There is a saying in Ethiopia that goes like "One who wants to get tired ties a single piece of wood." The author of the piece worked hard to get tired. TPLF is gone forever.

  4. Nice try. Tplf is a spent force which will be decimated soon. It may stay as gorilla army but not big force which threatens the country. Most of its leaders paraded to prison and some displayed bullet in their foreheads. As an Ethiopian l am already satisfied with the humiliating punishment they received and whatever effort by foreign forces to make them appear grand would not work. It didn't work even when they had 80% of Ethiopia's weaponry and army. They were destroyed in few weeks

  5. Man, a lot of these commenters are out of touch with reality.

    The Ethiopian army is loosing.

    It wasn't able to hold onto it's gains in Tigray, it was pushed out(with hundreds of troops captured and paraded)

    Now Tigray forces are pushing down the B22, A20and B3O highways outside their region.

    They've also managed to align themselves with a number of other groups now, opposed to the central government

  6. Westerns wish is much more... but we > 100 million Ethiopians new TDF & its supporters wont resist ENDF!

  7. This just a dream and the result of trauma about former TPLF , now the reality is different, Just reading what ENDF Did between Nov & june will suffix, where are the prominent leaders of TPLF, in Jaial or Dead, please try to be fair instead of shouting like an empty pocket, talk about what happned to those Mafia leaders of TPLF, TPLF= ONLY ME

  8. this is tplf propoganda.Nothing new

  9. It is amazing how pathetic Ethiopian government supporters are, this article is a mere chronicle of the reality, I swear all Amharas know to do is to talk though and live off their women.

  10. 1. It was Eritrean defense forces, not endf, that actually captured and took most/all of the heavy weaponry the tdf had looted from the northern command bases in the early days of the war. 2. A few of the Type-89 APC's you listed were duplicates(like the 2nd and 3rd pic along with the another one) which the TDF/TMH claimed were captured at different battles. But one can clearly tell they are the same one as the camo marking is identical. 3. Same goes for the WZ-551 APC. Look at the first and fourth pic; they also have identical camo markings, but tdf also claimed these apc's were captured at different battles.