MediaETHIOPIA Photo Essay - April 1, 2002

Ethiopian Air Force

Canberra Bombers. EAF had 2 of them in its forces.

F5A/F5B constituted the bulk of EAF's fighters during H/Selassie's time. 

MIG 21. The backbone of the 2nd Wing of EAF.

The whole thing started with a complaint that our colleague at the Photo Essay Team had about his younger brother who wanted to join the Ethiopian Air Force. "I told him he needs to join Ethiopian Airlines as a pilot instead of the Air Force if he loved planes that much. At least with the Airlines, he will make enough money," rumbled our colleague. "You are talking about Yonas. Aren't you? I know him very well; c'mon he is not good-looking enough for the airlines," said another member of the team taking the discussion to a different level. Well, after rounds of Kitfo and beer, we all recommended that the younger brother first pass his upcoming 10-th grade matriculation exam before W/O Genet Zewde's [Minister of Education] new hated policy sends him to the ranks of the unemployed youth.

SU-25's joined EAF in 99 and 2000. They were deadly and critical in winning the air war against Shabia in 2000. 

Nisire Mekonen was among the first airplanes of the Imperial EAF. The first plane of any kind in Ethiopia was called Nisre-Teferi. The Italians stole one of the original planes that had arrived in Ethiopia and named after Prince Tsehay. An attempt to return them to Ethiopia is still unsuccessful. The new Bole terminal building is planned to house Prince Tsehay when it is successfully returned home. 

This discussion, however, gave us an idea to do a story on the Ethiopian Air Force. Even judging from the discussion we had among ourselves, the prestige and respect that the EAF enjoys amongst many Ethiopians is very legendary. Names like General Amha Desta (brutally killed by Col. Mengistu), Major General Fanta Belai (brutally killed by Col Mengistu also), Colonel Bezuwork (the hero of the war to save Dire Dawa in 77 war), Major Sisay Habte, Major Sisay (a national hero of the Ogaden Operation who was reputed to have shot 4 Somali MIGS), Colonel Bezabih Petros (hero of the war against Shabia-EPLF in 99-still missing) and many other heroes of EAF were mentioned with pride.  

MIG23's form the backbone of the 3rd Wing of EAF. MIG23s were effective against the EPLF in the 80's and helped EAF rule over the country's sky from Ras Kasar to Moyale.

One of the earliest trainers used by EAF - Saab Safir.

EAF attained a legendary status in the hearts and minds of ordinary Ethiopians starting with the two wars of aggression of Somalia where Somalia's air force was rendered ineffective within few days of the start of each war thanks to EAF. Further we may have lost the ground war against EPLF back in 1991, but EAF's jets ruled from Ras Kasar all the way to Moyale. So, which are some of the unforgettable moments of EAF's history? The war to save Dire Dawa and its airport and the role played by the Canberra bombers (top left picture) and their pilots in 1977 is something to be remembered. The Canberras were effective in eliminating column after column of Somalian armor that was poised to overrun the Dire Airport and make its way all the way to Awash, Nazret and then Addis. F5A's (top right) had contained the initial Somali advance until the MIGS were ready to take to the skies over the Ogaden [Courtesy of Mr. Jimmy Carter who stopped the shipment of F5E's]. The role of the Sukhoy jets (SU-25 and SU-27) in the war against EPLF in 2000 is now legendary. EPLF's $250 Million investment on MIG-29's was rendered null and void within few days of the air war where EAF emerged a clear and undisputed winner.

SU-27s which form the backbone of the 1st Wing of EAF complemented the SU-25 fighters and scored most of the kills against EPLF's MIG-29s. SU-27s were effective as bombers and their complete annihilation of the heavily guarded Sawa Camp of EPLF was the biggest surprise of the war.

Disclaimer: All information here is gathered from public domain sources [Google being the most helpful]. Also, we hate war and doing a story on it; but the neighborhood we live in has seen some crazy folks and groups over the years. If we had our wish, the people of the Horn should live under an economic and political confederation.

Photo Courtesy: Harro Ranter [An-26], Blue Rider Publishing [Nisre Mekonnen],helis [Mig21, Mig23], Les Bywaters [Canberra], Ivan B. Savin [S-27].   


Copyright @2002MediaEthiopia [SKK/NM].