Friday, 19 November 2021

UAE Air Bridge To Ethiopia Continues Unabated - Surpassing 100 Flights

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans based on data gathered by Gerjon
The Emirati air bridge that aims to keep the Ethiopian military stocked on weaponry and munitions shows no sign of abating. Since August 2021, more than 100 cargo flights from the United Arab Emirates to Ethiopia have been recorded by aircraft tracker Gerjon. [1] When also including Ethiopian Airlines cargo aircraft flying between Ethiopia and the UAE and additional flights from Iran, the total influx of armament to the war-ravaged country increases even further. [2] Though originating in countries that couldn't be more opposed to one another, the UAE and Iran appear to have found common middle ground in delivering arms and equipment to the embattled Ethiopian military.
Although the exact contents of most of the aircrafts' cargo can still only be guessed at, they are almost certain to contain military-grade items, with humanitarian aid instead delivered to the country's main international airport in Addis Ababa. The UAE already delivered a large VTOL type of unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) armed with two heavy mortar rounds to the Ethiopian military in the summer of 2021, while Iran has delivered at least two Mohajer-6 UCAVs along with armament. [3] [4] In October 2021 Ethiopia also received 50 Toyota Land Cruisers equipped for basic emergency services from the UAE. [5]
The delivery of 50 Toyota Land Cruisers only accounts for the cargo content of seventeen out of 102 (confirmed) flights by Il-76s to Ethiopia. This means that the content of 84 Il-76 cargo aircraft is unaccounted for, undoubtedly consisting of various types of armament that have yet to make their public debut in Ethiopia. The arms haul is unlikely to be limited to just these flights however, as Ethiopian Airlines also launched regular cargo flights using Boeing 777 cargo aircraft to Abu Dhabi International Airport as well. [6] Rather than using the civilian cargo terminal at the airport, these aircraft taxi to the military side of the airport to be loaded away from the view of prying eyes.

In order to maintain plausible deniability, the UAE makes use of several front companies to deliver weaponry to countries where it has no official involvement. This was previously witnessed in Libya, where the UAE sought to overthrow the internationally-recognised government of Libya. [7] To deliver arms and equipment to Ethiopia, the UAE makes use of the UAE-based Fly Sky Airlines flying Il-76 cargo aircraft registered in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The outside of these aircraft only show their registration numbers, lacking any additional markings that indicate their ownership by Fly Sky Airlines, further adding mystery to their operations.

The 100th cargo flight by Fly Sky Airlines to Ethiopia tracked since mid-Agust 2021.

Through its sheer volume and the importance of the cargo, the UAE air bridge could end up making the difference between survival or a quick defeat for the Ethiopian government. There is now evidence to suggests that additional UCAVs have recently arrived to Harar Meda air base from the UAE. Whether these and other armament are enough to ultimately secure the Ethiopian government a victory is unknown, but if this does end up being the case it's certain that it's in no small part to the staunch support of the UAE.

[5] The Cargo Cleared For Print: UAE Wartime Deliveries To Ethiopia