The Ethiopian Air Force on Friday, 27 August, carried out an airstrike in Debre Zibit against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fortified position in Amhara regional state.
According to the state media, Amhara Media Corporation, fighters of the TPLF force were bombed after they gathered at the mountainous area of Debre Zibit after they were dislodged from Nefas Mewucha, Gaint and Kimir Genday areas earlier this month.
The Ethiopian Air Force likely used its Soviet-built MiG-23BN Flogger fighter attack aircraft to carry out the strike.
Tasked with protecting the country’s air space, providing support to ground forces, as well as assisting civil operations during national emergencies. The Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) have been judiciously carrying out this duties since it’s establishment in 1929.
In November 2020 a conflict broke out in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia between the Tigray People Liberation Force (TPLF) and the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF).
Since then, the ETAF have been supporting ground troops with airstrikes, targeting TPLF ammunition depot, military bases, troops cluster and convoys.
The MiG-23BNs although quite outdated and aged, have been pressed into service against the TPLF, and carrying out the bulk of the airstrikes. They are supported in this role by Ethiopian Sukhoi Su-27SK Flankers, Su-25T Frogfoots, and Mi-24/35 assault helicopters.
Due to their relatively limited capabilities, the MiGs were assigned to ground strike roles, while Ethiopia’s newer and more modern Su-27SK jets are responsible for air defense.
The MiG-23 Flogger first entered service in the Soviet Air Forcefrom 1970, with production continuing until 1985. At the time, the swept-wing MiG-23 fighter was considered one of the most widelyused combat jets of the Cold War era and one of the most capablethird generation fighters to enter service.
In the 1989s, the Ethiopian Air Force acquired ten MiG-23BN/UBS ground attack variant and five MiG-23ML interceptors.
The MiG-23ML interceptor is far more capable in both air to air and strike roles than the older MiG-23B, but they have been withdrawn from active service, leaving only 7 MiG-23BN/UBS in service for ground attack role.
Other African countries the MiG-23 was exported to includes; Angola (MiG-23ML/UB/MLD), DR Congo, Libya (MiG-23ML/UBl), and Sudan (MiG-23MS/UBS).
Three ETAF MiGs fighters were recently shot down by the TPLF leading to the capture of the pilot.
In spite of the lack of finances, the ETAF have kept the MIG-23s flying long after their service life.
In 2004, Ethiopia inaugurated a maintenance and overhaul center project, Dejen Aviation Engineering Industry (DAVI), was also inaugurated to provide comprehensive maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services for the ETAF and commercial aircraft.
DAVI’s primary objective is to provide depot level maintenance and carry out upgrading/modification for the Ethiopian Air Force aircraft fleet.
The complex is part of the Ethiopian Defense Industry under the Ministry of National Defense, and was designed to have an annual MRO service capacity of 50 aircraft.
Presently, DAVI now manufacture of various aircraft bodies, parts and accessories including rubber parts for aircraft, production of plexi glass for aircraft and helicopters, and electro-plating services.
Even with the Dejen Aviation Engineering Industry (DAVI), Ethiopia cannot fly the MiG-23s forever. Recently, reports emerged that the ETAF is considering acquiring the Lockheed F-16V, or the Chinese J-10C to replace the MiG-23s, however, so far, not much is known regarding the status of the endeavor.
Also, Imongoing tensions with Egypt and Sudan, (which both owns more modern and capable aircraft), over the Grand Renaissance Dam Project (GERD), provides an impetus to replace the aging MiGs.
Thus, Ethiopia’s swept wing MiG-23s may be seeing their last combat operations as they will likely be replaced within the decade.