Cheap and efficient drones are increasingly becoming decisive weapons in modern conflicts.
Ethiopia’s 13-month war has seen yet another dramatic turn as the federal government’s counteroffensive against fighters from the northern Tigray region has made substantial advances, reversing the spectacular gains made recently by the Tigrayan forces in their push southwards.
State media said this week the country’s “joint gallant security forces” had retaken the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, the latest in a series of battleground victories since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last month he would head to the front line and urged Ethiopians to join the fight.
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As fighting drags on, the government, with its tiny air force of 22 combat-capable aircraft, seems to have also realised that air power and timely intelligence can make all the difference in a conflict – especially one fought over vast and often mountainous areas like in Ethiopia’s north. Although there has been no official confirmation, analysts have pointed to credible reports saying Ahmed’s government has reached out in recent months to manufacturers of cheap and efficient armed drones hoping that air power will turn the tide in its way.
Photographic evidence has pointed to the presence of Chinese Wing Loong 2 Unarmed Aerial Vehicles or UAVs at Ethiopian military bases, while a Bellingcat investigation in August found strong indications that Iranian armed drones, along with their ground control stations, had been spotted at Semera Airport. The government has also reportedly reached out to Turkey and requested a number of Bayraktar TB2 drones. These are relatively cheap and combat-proven and have been decisively used over several battlefields in recent years.
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