Su vs MiGs in the sky over Africa
The Horn of Africa is a region of great strategic interest, which has always been a stumbling block for European powers. Here Great Britain, France, and Italy had their colonies; besides, Ethiopia has always claimed a special political role — the only African state that has never become a colony. In 1890, the Red Sea coast, bordering Ethiopia, was colonized by the Italians and until 1941, when the Italians were defeated by British troops in Northeast Africa, the Italian colony of Eritrea was located here.
1941 to 1952 Eritrea was ruled by the British military administration, and then incorporated into Ethiopia on a federal basis. However, in 1962, the emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie abolished the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Eritrean nationalists were very dissatisfied with this turn of events. Since the beginning of the 1960's. a war of independence was unfolding in Eritrea. The actions of the Eritrean rebels became particularly active after the revolution in Ethiopia and the abolition of the monarchy.
In 1991, the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown in Ethiopia, and in 1993, the independence of Eritrea was proclaimed following a referendum. However, many disputes between the two countries have not been resolved by this time, so relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia remained extremely tense and repeatedly led to conflict situations. It was because of the disputed territories in 1998 that a large-scale armed conflict broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which lasted about two years and led to the death of more than 120 thousand people. The cause of the conflict was a dispute between the two countries over a small (400 square kilometers) area between the Marab and Tekeze rivers and the town of Badme. During the war against the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, this territory was controlled by the Ethiopian and Eritrean rebels jointly, and with 1991, it was actually outside of both Ethiopia and Eritrea. In the end, Ethiopia decided to seize the area and sent its troops to 1997 on its territory.
6 May 1998, a group of Eritrean police arrived in Badme, which was given the task of resolving the disputed situation with the Ethiopian border guards. But the dialogue did not work out - the Ethiopians opened fire on the Eritreans and killed seven people, including the commander of the police squad. The next day, mobilization was declared in Eritrea, and on May 12 on 1998, Eritrean troops invaded Badme and withdrew the Ethiopian units from there. The conflict quickly became positional in nature and the parties began to exchange fire from small rifle weapons, and then fire mortars and artillery shells.
Interstate and interethnic wars in Africa are very frequent, but the conflict of Ethiopia and Eritrea 1998-2000. was unique in its way. The fact is that the decisive role in the war between the two neighboring countries was played aviation - By African standards, this is really very unusual, since in most wars on the continent only land armed groups fight. The air forces of African states have never been equipped and equipped, but Ethiopia and Eritrea are certain exceptions.
At one time, Ethiopia was heavily armed by the Soviet Union, which was patronizing the regime to Mengistu Haile Mariam. The peak of the supply of Soviet military equipment, including military aircraft and helicopters, came at the end of the 1970-s, when revolutionary Ethiopia confronted neighboring Somalia. Only from November 1977 to January 1978, the USSR transferred to Ethiopia weapons worth more than 1 billion dollars. Until 1991, Soviet military advisers and trainers were constantly in Ethiopia to train the Ethiopian army and aviation. Between 1975 and 1991 11 143 was visited in Ethiopia by a Soviet military specialist and adviser; 79 citizens of the USSR, including two generals, were killed during the war with Somalia.
However, after the overthrow of the regime to Mengistu Haile Mariam, Ethiopia took a course to reduce the armed forces. Moreover, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was a longtime friend and associate in the rebel struggle of the Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki. A serious mistake of the new Ethiopian authorities was the massive persecution of officers and generals of the old regime. Almost all of them were arrested and were in prisons, and yesterday's rebels appointed to command positions did not have the proper level of knowledge in the art of war. Perhaps they were courageous and battle-tested people, but they lacked knowledge of the operational leadership of the troops.
Despite the fact that Eritrea is much smaller than Ethiopia, from the very beginning of the proclamation of independence, Eritrea has paid great attention to the construction and strengthening of its armed forces. So, if Ethiopia’s defense expenditures amounted to 124 million dollars per year, then Eritrea - 196 million dollars per year. However, if we talk about aviation, here Ethiopia is clearly superior to Eritrea. The Ethiopian Air Force, by the summer of 1998, had 18 fighter-bomber MiG-23BN, 10 MiG-21МФ, 24 fighters, Mi-24 / 35 and 22 combat helicopters. In addition, the Ethiopian military aircraft had 8 transport aircraft: 12 An-6, 12 DHC-2, 6 upgraded C-4В, and 130 MiG-30, which were used for spare parts for operational aircraft.
By the time the war broke out, the Eritrean air force was armed only with 6 light assault aircraft Aermacchi MB-339FD. That is, the forces of the parties in the sky were simply incomparable. However, from the very first days of the conflict, Eritrea began to make maximum efforts to strengthen its air force. In addition to the shortage of aircraft, the Eritrean Air Force faced a lack of qualified pilots and aircraft technicians. The solution to this problem was found in the traditional way for Africa - by attracting mercenaries. The citizens of Ukraine — former officers and warrant officers of Soviet military aviation, who remained unemployed after the collapse of the USSR and needed money, were mainly involved in the Eritrean air force. Many of them had no choice but to offer their services to foreign countries.
Ethiopia has always had special relations with Russia, so Russian military experts from among the retired officers of the Air Force and Air Defense went to serve in the Ethiopian aviation. The number of Russian aviation specialists of various profiles, who were part of the Ethiopian Air Force during the war, is estimated by some historians as 100 people. Colonel-General Yakim Ivanovich Yanakov was an adviser to the Air Force of Ethiopia with the consent of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Russia initially sold planes to both Ethiopia and Eritrea. For example, Rosvooruzhenie supplied spare parts and specialists for the repair of Ethiopian fighters, and Promexport signed a contract with the Ethiopian side to supply X-NUMX Su-6SK and 27 Su-2UB fighters. MAPO MiG has signed a contract with Eritrea for the supply of eight MiG-27 and two MiG-29UB fighters. Eritrea also purchased eight Su-29 in Georgia and 25 “Sparks” Mig-6UM in Ukraine. In addition, Ethiopia purchased Mi-21 and 4 transport Mi-24 helicopters from Russia, and Eritrea bought 8 Mi-8. Thus, in the sky over the Horn of Africa, two clients of the Russian defense industry were to collide. Ethiopians and Eritreans fought against each other with Russian weapons, relying on the help of instructors and specialists - yesterday's brothers in arms as part of the Air Force and Air Defense of the USSR.
The first fights in the air began as early as June 1998. So, on June 5, two Ethiopian MiG-23BNs attacked the international airport in the capital of Eritrea, Asmara. But the Eritrean air defense was able to shoot down one Ethiopian aircraft. The Ethiopian MiG-21MF’s repeated raid on the Eritrean army’s air force base was also dismal for one of the Ethiopian aircraft. The colonel who piloted him, Berezzykh Petros was captured. For the Ethiopian aviation, this was a real catastrophe, because after the capture of Colonel Petros as part of the Air Force of Ethiopia, only four experienced pilots remained, one of whom was already an elderly person. More 26 pilots of the Ethiopian Air Force were imprisoned in Ethiopian prisons - they were arrested after the overthrow of Mengistu Haile Mariam. But the imprisoned pilots only agreed to return to the service if the government offered them official apologies and paid compensation for all seven years spent in prisons.
But even in this situation, Ethiopia had an obvious advantage in the air. Therefore, quite quickly, the Ethiopian aviation succeeded in winning air supremacy and moving on to the practice of attacking Eritrean targets throughout the country. In turn, the Eritrean Air Force did not manage to deliver a single significant blow to Ethiopian territory. 14 June 1998, mediated by the United States, Ethiopia and Eritrea imposed a mutual embargo on attacks from settlements from the air.
The situation of Eritrea was saved by a developed air defense system, the improvement of which the Eritrean leadership paid great attention to even in the prewar period. Thus, Eritrean anti-aircraft gunners calculated the flight routes of Ethiopian aviation and placed anti-aircraft installations on them. Eritrean air defenses shot down an 6-8 aircraft and an 3 helicopter from an Ethiopian Air Force helicopter, and one Ethiopian plane was hijacked by an Eritrean crew.
Quickly enough, the Eritrean pilots realized that the Su-27’s advantages over the MiG-29 in launching missiles did not boil down to the 10-second, but only to the 1-2-second difference. After that, the Eritrean command began to use combat aircraft more actively. February 21 The 1999 of the year even had an ambush of two Eritrean MiG-29s on the Ethiopian Su-27, which was on combat duty. The Su-27 pilot fired the R-27RE rocket from a distance of about 45 km, but it did not hit the target, since the Eritrean pilot was able to take his plane to the side. Then the Ethiopian Air Force pilot launched another missile from a range of 10 km, which exploded near the Eritrean plane, after which the latter began to decline. But in response to another MiG-29 Air Force Eritrea launched its rocket on the Ethiopian Su-27. The pilot of the latter managed to escape, using the difference in height and the supersonic speed of the aircraft.
25 February 1999 of the Ethiopian Su-27, aimed at intercepting two Eritrean MiG-29, intent on attacking ground units of the Ethiopian army, destroyed one Eritrean MiG-29 and forced the second plane to return to base. 26 February 1999 was another air battle, which was subsequently broadcast on Ethiopian national television. The Su-27 Air Force of the Ethiopian Air Force, which entered into battle with two Eritrean MiG-29, again managed to destroy one of the Eritrean aircraft with two missiles, after which the second MiG hastily turned to the base.
Thus, in air battles over the sky of Eritrea, the superiority of the Su-27 aircraft over other aircraft used by the Eritrea Air Force was confirmed. In many ways, it was the use of the Su-27 that allowed the Ethiopian air force to protect the territory of its country from probable air strikes by Eritrean aviation. Three MiG-29, which were in service with the Air Force Eritrea, were shot down by the Ethiopian Su-27, and the latter did not suffer any losses. Interestingly, one of the Su-27, who shot down the Eritrean MiG-29, piloted the Ethiopian female pilot - Captain Topal of Ethiopian Air Force.
Despite the importance of air battles, the outcome of the 1998-2000 armed conflict. still dependent on the actions of the ground forces. Ethiopia, using the numerical superiority of its armed forces, was able to defeat Eritrea, displacing the Eritrean army from the disputed territories. 12 May 2000 The Ethiopian army broke through the defense line of the Eritreans, after which the 12 Eritrean divisions were defeated within six days. 29 in May 2000 The Ethiopian Air Force bombed out the main Eritrean Air Force base in Asmara, and 18 in June 2000 the countries entered into a cease-fire agreement. However, the efforts of Ethiopia were in vain - the international arbitration court recognized the city of Badme, which became the symbol of the confrontation of the two countries, the territory of Eritrea. But for the armies of the two African states, the 1998-2000 war gave invaluable combat experience, and to outside observers and analysts showed the advantages and disadvantages of Russian Su and MiG combat aircraft.
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