US: Iran supplied Ethiopia with armed drones in Tigray war

Thursday October 20 2022
 Iran supplied armed drones to Ethiopia

An Iranian military drone being fired into the air during a military exercise. Iran supplied armed drones to Ethiopia which were unleashed by the Ethiopian military in the ongoing war in the northern Tigray region, the US State Department has said. PHOTO | IRANIAN ARMY OFFICE | AFP


Iran supplied armed drones to Ethiopia which were unleashed by the Ethiopian military in the ongoing war in the northern Tigray region, the US State Department said on Tuesday.

According to Vedant Patel, the Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State, Iran delivered Mohajer-6 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Ethiopia in the summer of 2021.

"We have informed the UN about Iran’s transfer of the Mohajer-6 UAVs to Ethiopia last summer" Patel said.

In addition to Ethiopia, Iran has also sent drones to Moscow for use in Russia's war with Ukraine.

Iran's supply of the military drones to the two countries is in violation of a standing UN Security Council Resolution, said Patel.

According to several reports, the Ethiopian military has used Iranian, Turkish, UAE and Chinese drones after Tigray conflict broke out in November 2020.


Used in Tigray war

Previously, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has indicated that military drones were used in the Tigray war.

And while speaking on state television in November last year, Ethiopian Air Force commander, Major-General Yilma Merdasa, confirmed that Ethiopia has used drones in the war.

However, the military official did not say which country's drones were used.

"This is a time where we can fight with a button sitting at a bureau, pressing the button we want, we can destroy the target.  We're building the air force this way," Merdasa said.

Last year, Plant SkySat satellite images analysed by identified two Mohajer-6 UAVs and a ground control station (GCS) at Semara airport (now Ethiopian Air Force base) in north-eastern Ethiopia on 1 August. 

The GCS was then pictured when Prime Minister Abiy visited the air base days later.

Unveiled in 2017

The Mohajer-6 is the latest design in the Mohajer-series.  It was unveiled in 2017 and went into production a year later, serving with Iran's Revolutionary Guards. 

The Mohajer-6 manufactured by Codes Aviation has an operational range of 200km with a carrying capacity of 40 kilogrammes of precision-guided munitions. 

Among the drones that Ethiopia is said to have used in the country's civil war is the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2.

This drone, manufactured by Baykar Defence, can fly with a weight of up to 150kgs and can be controlled from a distance of up to 300km and will perform its mission at an altitude of 18,000 to 27,000 feet.

Patel said the US has informed the UN about Iran's delivery of unmanned warplanes to Russia, noting it is in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

"This kind of transfer would fall under this restriction, and would be subject to it," he told reporters, referring to the resolution.

Ethiopia's use of drones has increased sharply during the last two months after heavy fighting resumed in August, ending a six-month l truce by the warring parties.