MW Exclusive: Ethiopia Using Weapons Supplied by Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan
Ethiopian Forces were supplied with a range of weapons from various countries over the past years. As the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) were fighting the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the government of Ethiopia bought a large number of weapons, from UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles) to assault rifles.
Notable countries that sold arms to Ethiopia at the height of the conflict include Iran, Turkey, and possibly Azerbaijan, and weapons originating from each of those countries have been observed on the battlefield. Due to Iran's hostility towards Azerbaijan and Turkey, the fact that weapons from all three are found in the ENDF is somewhat ironic and certainly interesting to arms analysts.
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Below, an analysis of various weapons systems used in Ethiopia, which originate from these three countries, is provided. However, it should be noted that some facts regarding these weapons remain uncertain.
One of the most significant Iranian weapon systems in use by the ENDF is the Qods Mohajer-6 UAV.
Notably, this UAV was used in an airstrike, which according to OLA fighters was carried out at the beginning of January 2022 in Gidami, Kelem (Qelem) in the Welega (Wollega) Province in Ethiopia.
In the photographs published from the region, the remains of the Iranian Ghaem-5 missile can be seen, which were found and photographed by OLA fighters.
In addition to the UAVs, Iran also supplied various small arms to Ethiopia.
The first of these weapons is the KL-103 assault rifle. This rifle is essentially an Iranian-made copy of the Russian AK-103 rifle.
KL-103 rifles were also seized by the OLA and TPLF, who in turn used them in their fight against the ENDF.
Initially, some sources claimed that these rifles were produced by the Ethiopian GAFAT Armament Engineering Complex, but later photographs revealed that they were Iranian KL-103 rifles.
There is no definite information on when the KL-103 assault rifles were supplied to the ENDF. However, data is available that narrows down the possibilities.
In the above photograph, the serial number on one of the KL-103 rifles captured by OLA is "19320". Additionally, the Izhmash-marked copy AK magazine (which seems to be an Iranian copy as well) is included along with the rifle.
From the markings, we can reasonably assume that the magazine was produced in 2021/2022, which indicates that the arms transfer was made in 2021/2022 (at the same time as the Mohajer-6 UAVs).
Another weapon used by the ENDF is the "Hoshdar-M" rifle, which is a copy of the SVD designated marksman rifle (DMR).
Hoshdar-M DMRs were also supplied to the ENDF, probably at the same time as the KL-103 rifles.
Although there is no clear delivery date information in the photos published in general, it is very likely that these rifles were supplied in 2021/2022.
Along with Iran, Turkey is among the countries supplying weapons to Ethiopia. The most common of the small arms that Turkey supplies to Ethiopia are EKOL P29 Blank Firing Guns. These pistols are often converted to fire real ammunition—usually 7.65 Parabellum.
Although shipments of these firearms predate the conflict, Turkey has also supplied guided munitions for Turkish UCAVs, which were transferred to Ethiopia in 2021/2022.
Throughout 2022, Ethiopian forces struck various targets using Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs armed with MAM-L guided munitions.
Ammunition produced by Azerbaijan is extremely rare on modern battlefields outside of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani mortar rounds captured by OLA fighters are remarkable in this respect.
Judging from battlefield photographs, Azerbaijani mortar rounds are used in Ethiopia with at least two different LOT numbers: “38-22” and “40-22”. At the same time, it is reasonable to say that these rounds were produced in 2022.
A document containing details about a crate of 40M10 mortar rounds including lot numbers “40-22” - these were captured in West Welega and shows that this ammunition was packed in July 2022.
There is no clear information on exactly when and by whom these munitions were supplied to Ethiopia. It is also striking that they were supplied immediately after they were produced.
If these mortar rounds are not supplied by Azerbaijan, the most likely possibility is that the supplier is Turkey—which is not unthinkable given the strong security and trade relationship between Azerbaijan and Turkey.