Ethiopian National Defense Force

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) is the military force of Ethiopia. Civil direction of the military is carried out through the Ministry of Defense, which oversees the ground forces, air force, as well as the Defense Industry Sector.

Ethiopian National Defense Force
Flag of the Ethiopian National Defense Force.svg
Flag of the Ethiopian National Defense Force
Service branches
Commander-in-ChiefAbiy Ahmed
Minister of DefenseKenea Yadeta
Chief of General StaffGeneral Birhanu Jula
Military age18 years old
Active personnel350-000-385,000 (2020)
Reserve personnel70,000 estimate
Budget$518 million (2019) [1]
Percent of GDP0.8% (2015 est.)
Domestic suppliersDefense Industry Sector
Related articles
RanksMilitary ranks of Ethiopia

The size of the ENDF has fluctuated significantly since the end of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war in 2000. In 2002 the Ethiopian Defense Forces had a strength of approximately 250,000-350,000 troops.[2] This was roughly the same number maintained during the Derg regime that fell to the rebel forces in 1991. However, that number was later reduced, and in January 2007, during the War in Somalia, Ethiopian forces were said to comprise about 300,000 troops.[3] In 2012, the IISS estimated that the ground forces had 135,000 personnel and the air force 3,000.[4]

As of 2012, the ENDF consists of two separate branches: the Ground Forces and the Ethiopian Air Force.[4] Ethiopia has several defense industrial organisations that produce and overhaul different weapons systems. Most of these were built under the Derg regime which planned a large military industrial complex. The ENDF relies on voluntary military service of people above 18 years of age. Although there is no compulsory military service, armed forces may conduct call-ups when necessary and compliance is compulsory.[5]

Being a landlocked country, Ethiopia today has no navy. Ethiopia reacquired a coastline on the Red Sea in 1950 and created the Ethiopian Navy in 1955. Eritrean independence in 1991 left Ethiopia landlocked again, but the Ethiopian Navy continued to operate from foreign ports until it finally was disbanded in 1996.


The Ethiopian army's origins and military traditions date back to the earliest history of Ethiopia. Due to Ethiopia's location between the Middle East and Africa, it has long been in the middle of Eastern and Western politics, and has been subject to foreign invasion and aggression. In 1579, the Ottoman Empire's attempt to expand from a coastal base at Massawa was defeated.[6] The Army of the Ethiopian Empire was also able to defeat the Egyptians in 1876 at Gura, led by Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV.[7] Clapham wrote in the 1980s that the "Abyssinians [had suffered] from a 'superiority complex' which may be traced to Gundet, Gura and Adwa".[8]

In accordance with the order of the emperor of Ethiopia, Nikolay Leontiev directly organized the first battalion of the regular Ethiopian army in February 1899. Leontiev formed the first regular battalion, the kernel of which became the company of volunteers from the former Senegal shooters, which he chose and invited from Western Africa, with training of the Russian and French officers. The first Ethiopian military orchestra was organized at the same time.[9][10]

Battle of AdwaEdit

The Battle of Adwa is the best known victory of Ethiopian forces over foreign invaders. It maintained Ethiopia's existence as an independent state. Fought on 1 March 1896 against the Kingdom of Italy near the town of Adwa, it was the decisive battle of the First Italo–Ethiopian War. Assisted by all of the major nobles of Ethiopia, including Alula Abanega, Negus, Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam, Sebhat Aregawi, Ras Makonnen, Ras Mengesha Yohannes, and Ras Mikael of Wollo, Emperor Menelek II of Ethiopia struck a powerful blow against the Italian army.

The Ethiopian army had been able to execute the strategic plan of Menelik's headquarters, despite a feudal system of organization and adverse circumstances. A special role was played by the Russian military advisers and the volunteers of Leontiev's mission.[11][12][13]

Secondly, the Ethiopian army was based on a feudal system of organization, and as a result, nearly the entire army was a peasant militia. Russian military experts advising Menelik II suggested trying to achieve full battle collision with Italians, to neutralize the superior firepower of their opponent and potentially nullify their problems with arms, training, and organization, rather than engaging in a campaign of harassment.[14] In the battle that ensued wave upon wave of Menelik's warriors successfully attacked the Italians.

Preserving Ethiopian independenceEdit

During the Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia remained the only nation which had not been colonized by European colonial powers, due in part to their defeat of Italy in the First Italo-Ethiopian War. However, with Ethiopia surrounded on all sides by European colonies, the necessity of ensuring that the Ethiopian army was well-maintained became apparent to the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian government trained its troops to a very high degree, with Russian military officer Alexander Bulatovich writing thus:

"Many consider the Abyssinian army to be undisciplined. They think that it is not in any condition to withstand a serious fight with a well-organized European army, claiming that the recent war with Italy doesn't prove anything. I will not begin to guess the future, and will say only this. Over the course of four months, I watched this army closely. It is unique in the world. And I can bear witness to the fact that it is not quite so chaotic as it seems at first glance, and that on the contrary, it is profoundly disciplined, though in its own unique way. For every Abyssinian, war is normal business, and military skills and rules of army life in the field enter in the flesh and blood of each of them, just as do the main principles of tactics. On the march, each soldier knows how to arrange necessary comforts for himself and to conserve his strength; but on the other hand, when necessary, he shows such endurance and is capable of action in conditions which are difficult even to imagine.

You see remarkable expediency in all the actions and skills of this army; and each soldier has an amazingly intelligent attitude toward managing the mission of the battle.

Despite such qualities, because of its impetuousness, it is much more difficult to control this army than a well-drilled European army, and I can only marvel at and admire the skill of its leaders and chiefs, of which there is no shortage."[14]

In obedience to the agreement with Russia and the order of Menelik II, First Ethiopian officers began to be trained at the First Russian cadet school in 1901. 30 to 40 Ethiopian officers were trained in Russia from 1901 until 1913.[citation needed]

Under Haile Selassie IEdit

Ethiopian troops transporting supplies by camel through vegetation during the East African Campaign.

Modernization of the army took place under the regency of Tafari Mekonnen, who later reigned as Emperor Haile Selassie I. He created an Imperial Bodyguard, the Kebur Zabagna, in 1917 from the earlier Mahal Safari who had traditionally attended the Ethiopian Emperor. Its elite were trained at the French military academy at Saint-Cyr or by Belgian military advisers. He also created his own military school at Holeta in January 1935.[15]

Ethiopian military aviation efforts were initiated in 1929, when Tafari Mekonnen hired two French pilots and purchased four French biplanes.[16] By the time of the Italian invasion of 1935, the air force had four pilots and thirteen aircraft.

However, these efforts were not sufficient nor instituted in enough time to stop the rising tide of Italian fascism. Ethiopia was invaded and occupied by Italy during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia of 1935–36, marked for the first time Ethiopia was occupied by a foreign power. Ethiopia's patriots managed to resist and defeat the fascist Italian force after the 1941 East African Campaign of World War II with the help of British, South African and Nigerian forces. This made Ethiopia the only country in Africa that has never been colonized. After the Italians had been driven from the country, a British Military Mission to Ethiopia (BMME), under Major General Stephen Butler, was established to reorganise the Ethiopian Army.[17] The Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement of 1944 removed the BMME from the jurisdiction of East Africa Command at Nairobi and made it responsible to the Ethiopian Minister of War.[18]

Ethiopia bought twenty AH-IV tankettes from Sweden in the late 1940s. They arrived in Djibouti on 9 May 1950 after which they were carried by rail to Addis Ababa. They were used until the 1980s when they participated in the fighting against Somalia.[19]

Korean WarEdit

Ethiopian soldiers in the Korean War, 1951

In keeping with the principle of collective security, for which Haile Selassie was an outspoken proponent, Ethiopia sent a contingent under General Mulugeta Buli, known as the Kagnew Battalion, to take part in the Korean War. It was attached to the American 7th Infantry Division, and fought in a number of engagements including the Battle of Pork Chop Hill.[20] 3,518 Ethiopian troops served in the war, of which 121 were killed and 536 wounded.[21]

On May 22, 1953, a U.S.-Ethiopian Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement was signed. A U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group was dispatched to Ethiopia, and began its work by reorganising the army into three divisions. On 25 September 1953, Selassie created the Imperial Ministry of National Defense that unified the Army, Air Force, and Navy.[22] By 1956, the First Division had its headquarters at Addis Ababa (First, Second, Third Brigades, 5,300 strong); the Second Division was headquartered at Asmara, with the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Twelfth Brigades (4,500 strong); and Third Division Harar (with the Fourth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Brigades, 6,890 strong) respectively.[23] The three divisions had a total of 16,832 troops. In May 1959, the Emperor established the Imperial Territorial Army as a reserve force that provided military training to civil servants.

In 1960 the U.S. Army Area Handbook for Ethiopia described the very personalised command arrangements then used by the Emperor:[24]

The Emperor is by constitutional provision Commander-in-Chief, and to him are reserved all rights respecting the size of the forces and their organisation and command, together with the power to appoint, promote, transfer and dismiss military officers. He seeks the advice and consent of Parliament in declaring war. Traditionally, he assumes personal command of the forces in time of war.'

The Office of the Chief of Staff of the Imperial Ethiopian Armed Forces directed the Commanders of the Army, Air Force, and Navy, and the three army divisions were directly responsible to the Commander of the Army.[25] The three divisions seemingly included the Third Division in the Ogaden, seen as a hardship post.[26] While technically the Imperial Bodyguard (Kebur Zabagna) was responsible to the Army Commander, in reality its commander received his orders directly from the Emperor.

Balambaras Abebe Aregai was one of the noted patriotic resistance leaders of Shoa (central Ethiopia) that rose to preeminence in the post-liberation period.[27] He became Ras, a general and minister of defense of the Imperial Ethiopian Armed Forces until his death in the 1960 Ethiopian coup attempt.

Ethiopia contributed troops for the United Nations operation in the Congo – the United Nations Operation in the Congo - from July 1960. By 20 July 1960, 3,500 troops for ONUC had arrived in the Congo.[28] The 3,500 consisted of 460 troops from Ethiopia (later to grow into the Tekil Brigade)[29] as well as troops from Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie raised some 3,000 Imperial Bodyguard personnel- about 10 percent of the Ethiopian army's entire strength at that time-and made it part of the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo, along with an air force squadron.[30] This volunteer battalion from the Imperial Bodyguard were authorized by the Emperor. The Tekil (or “Tekel”) Brigade was stationed in Stanleyville.

Aman Mikael Andom commanded the Third Division during the 1964 Ethiopian–Somali Border War. He later became chief of staff of the Armed Forces in July 1974, and then Minister of Defense.[31] He then became chairman of the Derg from September to December 1974.

Emperor Haile Selassie divided the Ethiopian military into separate commands. The US Army Handbook for Ethiopia notes that each service was provided with training and equipped from different foreign countries "to assure reliability and retention of power."[32] The military consisted of the following: Imperial Bodyguard (also known as the "First Division", 8,000 men); three army divisions; services which included the Airborne, Engineers, and Signal Corps; the Territorial Army (5,000 men); and the police (28,000 men).[32]

Among reported U.S. equipment deliveries to Ethiopia were 120 M59 and 39 M75 armoured personnel carriers.

Seizure of power by the Derg 1974 and aftermathEdit

The Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army, or the Derg (Amharic "Committee"), was officially announced 28 June 1974 by a group of military officers to maintain law and order due to the powerlessness of the civilian government following widespread mutiny in the armed forces of Ethiopia earlier that year. Its members were not directly involved in those mutinies, nor was this the first military committee organized to support the administration of Prime Minister Endelkachew Makonnen: Alem Zewde Tessema had established the Armed Forces Coordinated Committee on 23 March. However, over the following months radicals in the Ethiopian military came to believe he was acting on behalf of the hated aristocracy, and when a group of notables petitioned for the release of a number of government ministers and officials who were under arrest for corruption and other crimes, three days later the Derg was announced.[33]

The Derg, which originally consisted of soldiers at the capital, broadened its membership by including representatives from the 40 units of the Ethiopian Army, Air Force, Navy, Kebur Zabagna (Imperial Guard), Territorial Army and Police: each unit was expected to send three representatives, who were supposed to be privates, NCOs and junior officers up to the rank of major. According to Bahru Zewde, "senior officers were deemed too compromised by close association to the regime."[34]

The committee elected Major Mengistu Haile Mariam as its chairman and Major Atnafu Abate as its vice-chairman. The Derg was initially supposed to study the grievances of various military units, and investigate abuses by senior officers and staff, and to root out corruption in the military. In the months following its founding, the power of the Derg steadily increased. In July 1974 the Derg obtained key concessions from the Emperor, Haile Selassie, which included the power to arrest not only military officers, but government officials at every level. Soon both former Prime Ministers Tsehafi Taezaz Aklilu Habte-Wold, and Endelkachew Makonnen, along with most of their cabinets, most regional governors, many senior military officers and officials of the Imperial court found themselves imprisoned.

When the Derg gained control of Ethiopia, they lessened their reliance on the West. Instead they began to draw their equipment and their sources for organisational and training methods from the Soviet Union and other Comecon countries, especially Cuba. During this period, Ethiopian forces were often locked in counter-insurgency campaigns against various guerrilla groups. They honed both conventional and guerrilla tactics during campaigns in Eritrea, and by repelling an invasion launched by Somalia in the 1977–1978 Ogaden War.[35]

The Ethiopian army grew considerably under the Derg (1974–1987), and the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia under Mengistu (1987–1991), especially during the latter regime. The Library of Congress estimated forces under arms in 1974 at 41,000.[36] By July 1975 the International Institute for Strategic Studies was listing a mechanised division in addition to three infantry divisions.[37] Ayele writes that in November 1975, the "Nabalbal" ("Flame") force was created, subdivided into battalion-sized units of 400. Each battalion-sized unit was known as a hayl (force), and 20 were created within sixteen months.[38] The "Nabalbal" units entered combat in 1977. When Ethiopian intelligence sources discovered Somali planning to seize the Ogaden, militia brigades were also created; first 30, then a total of 61 brigades totalling 143,350 by 1977–78.[39] It appears that there were five regular line divisions active by the time of the 1977 Ogaden War, and the Library of Congress estimated the force size at the time as 53,500. With significant Soviet assistance, after that point the army's size grew rapidly; in 1979 it was estimated at 65,000.[36] The 18th and 19th Mountain Infantry Divisions were then established in 1979-80 originally to seize Nakfa, in the Sahel Mountains, one of the remaining strongholds of the Eritrean insurgents.[40] By the beginning of 1981 recruitment for the 21st and 22nd Mountain Infantry Divisions was underway; soon afterwards, preparations for the large Operation Red Star were stepping up.[41]

In April 1988 the Derg reorganised the army. The restoration of relations with Somalia meant that forces could be transferred from the First Revolutionary Army in the Ogaden, to the Second and Third Revolutionary Armies, the Third (TRA) being responsible for the provinces of Assab, Tigray, Wello, Gondar, and Gojjam. The very small Fourth Revolutionary Army became responsible not only for protecting the border with Kenya, but also those with Somalia and Sudan. In the place of the previous commands, thirteen corps were established instead, distributed amongst the army headquarters. Intensive efforts were made to enlist additional personnel. Total manpower after the reorganisation reached a reported 388,000.[42]

In May 1988 the Derg decided that before it could concentrate on destroying the EPLF, it would have to first eliminate the TPLF.[43] Thus Operation Adwa was devised to seize the main TPLF base at Adi Ramets in Gondar Province. The Third Revolutionary Army's 603rd and 604th Corps were to play the main role, while the 605th Corps secured the rear, in Wello. The TRA's command structure was disrupted when Major General Mulatu Negash, the army commander, was supplanted by the arrival of Mengistu's favorite, Captain Lagesse Asfaw.

Cuba provided a significant influx of military advisors and troops over this period, with the largest escalation during the Ogaden War with Somalia, supported by a Soviet airlift:[44]

  • 1977–1978: 17,000 (Ogaden War)
  • 1978: 12,000
  • 1984: 3,000
  • 1989: All forces withdrawn

1990-91 Order of BattleEdit

Gebru Tareke listed Ethiopian ground forces in 1990 as comprising four revolutionary armies organized as task forces, eleven corps, twenty-four infantry divisions, and four mountain divisions, reinforced by five mechanised divisions, two airborne divisions, and ninety-five brigades, including four mechanised brigades, three artillery brigades, four tank brigades, twelve special commando and paracommando brigades – including the Spartakiad, which became operational in 1987 under the preparation and guidance of North Koreans – seven BM-rocket battalions, and ten brigades of paramilitary forces.[45]

Forces under arms were estimated at 230,000 in early 1991.[36] Mengistu's People's Militia had also grown to about 200,000 members. The mechanized forces of the army comprised 1,200 T-54/55, 100 T-62 tanks, and 1,100 armored personnel carriers (APCs), but readiness was estimated to be only about 30 percent operational, because of the withdrawal of financial support, lack of maintenance expertise and parts from the Soviet Union, Cuba and other nations.[46]

Ethiopian T-62 tanks at the end of the Ethiopian Civil War.

The army commands consisted of the:

  • First Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Harar, 1988: 601st and 602nd Corps[47])
  • Second Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Asmera, 1988: 606th-610th Corps)
  • Third Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Kombolcha, 1988: 603rd, 604th, 605th Corps)
  • Fourth Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Nekemte, 1988: 611th, 612th, 614th Corps)
  • Fifth Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Gondar)[48]

To these armies were assigned the operational forces of the army, comprising:

From 1991Edit

In 1991 Mengistu's government was overcome by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ, former EPLF), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and other opposition factions. After the defeat of the military government, the provisional government disbanded the former national army and relied on its own guerrilla fighters.[50] In 1993, however, the Tigrayan-led government announced plans to create a multi-ethnic defense force. This process entailed the creation of a new professional army and officer class and the demobilization of many of the irregulars who had fought against the military government. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Ethiopia again turned to the Western powers for alliance and assistance. However, many Tigrayan officers remained in command positions. This transformation was still underway when war with Eritrea broke out in 1998, a development that saw the ranks of the armed forces swell along with defense expenditures.

Although the armed forces have significant battlefield experience, their militia orientation has complicated the transition to a structured, integrated military.[50] Ranks and conventional units were only adopted in 1996. A United States-assisted effort to restructure the armed forces was interrupted by mobilisation for the war with Eritrea.

The Ethiopia-Eritrea warEdit

Soldier of Ethiopian National Defense Force, 2006.

The former allies EPRDF and PFDJ (former EPLF) led their countries Ethiopia and Eritrea, respectively, into the Eritrean-Ethiopian War of 1998. The war was fought over the disputed region of Badme. During the course of the war, some commanders and pilots from the former army and air force were recalled to duty. These officers helped turn the tide decisively against Eritrea in 2000. Following the war's end, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, a body founded by the UN, established that the Badme region had in fact belonged to Eritrea.[51] Although the two countries are now at peace, Ethiopia rejected the results of the international court's decision, and continued to occupy Badme. Most observers agree that Ethiopia's rejection of international law, coupled with the high numbers of soldiers maintained on the border by each side – a debilitatingly high number, particularly for the Eritrean side – means that the two countries are effectively still in conflict.[citation needed]

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Ethiopian army began to train with the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) established in Djibouti. Ethiopia allowed the US to station military advisors at Camp Hurso.[52] Part of the training at Camp Hurso has included U.S. Army elements, including 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, training the 12th, 13th and 14th Division Reconnaissance Companies, which from July 2003 were being formed into a new Ethiopian anti-terrorism battalion.[53]


Government forces have been engaged in battle against Ogaden insurgents led by the Ogaden National Liberation Front.


Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in 2006 on the pretext of security concerns over Ogaden.

In December 2006, the ENDF entered Somalia to confront the Islamic Courts Union, initially winning the Battle of Baidoa. This led to the seizure of Mogadishu by Ethiopian troops and TFG militias, and subsequent heavy fighting there. After the Islamists split into two groups, moderate Islamists led by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed signed a UN backed peace deal with the TFG and established a larger government in Mogadishu. Ethiopian troops withdrew as part of the terms of the peace deal. Gabre Heard commanded the forces in Somalia.

The force of about 3,000 Ethiopian troops faced war crimes allegations by rights groups.[54]The Transitional Federal Government who invited them were also accused of human rights abuses and war crimes including murder, rape, assault, and looting by human rights groups [55]

In their December 2008 report 'So much to Fear' Human Rights Watch warned that since the Ethiopians had intervened in 2006 Somalia was facing a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale not witnessed since the early 1990s. They went on to accuse the TFG of terrorising the citizens of Mogadishu and the Ethiopian soldiers for increasing violent criminality.[55]

Analysts suggested that the move was primarily motivated by financial considerations, with the Ethiopian forces' operational costs now slated to be under AMISOM's allowance budget. It is believed that the Ethiopian military's long experience in Somali territory, its equipment such as helicopters, and the potential for closer coordination will help the allied forces advance their territorial gains.[56] As of 2014, the Ethiopian troops in Somalia have been integrated into the AMISOM peacekeeping force. According to Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ambassador Dina Mufti, the Ethiopian military's decision to join AMISOM is intended to render the peacekeeping operation more secure.[57]


Ethiopia has served in various United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions. These have included Ivory Coast,[58][59] on the Burundi border,[58][60] and in Rwanda.

Two major Ethiopian missions are in Liberia and Darfur. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1509, of 19 September 2003, to support the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace process, protect United Nations staff, facilities and civilians, support humanitarian and human rights activities; as well as assist in national security reform, including national police training and formation of a new, restructured military.[61] In November 2007, nearly 1,800 Ethiopian troops serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) were presented with UN Peacekeeping medals for their "invaluable contribution to the peace process."[62] Up to three Ethiopian battalions used to constitute Sector 4 of the UN Mission, covering the southern part of the country.

Many thousands of Ethiopian peacekeepers are involved in the joint African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur, western Sudan. The Security Council authorized a UNAMID force of about 26,000 uniformed personnel.[63][64]

Ethiopia also provides the entire force for the UN's Abyei mission, the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei. An Ethiopian officer commands the force.

Ground ForcesEdit

The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated in the Military Balance 2009 that the army comprised 4 Military Regional Commands; (Northern (HQ Mekele.[65]), Western, Central, and Eastern) each acting as corps HQ,[66] there also being a Support Command and a strategic reserve of four divisions and six specialist brigades centred on Addis Ababa.

Each of the four corps comprises a headquarters, an estimated one mechanised division and between 4 and 6 infantry divisions.

In 2014 the regional commanders were listed by dissident sources as:

The modern ENDF has a wide mix of equipment. Many of its major weapons systems stem from the Communist era and are of Soviet and Eastern bloc design. The United States was Ethiopia's major arms supplier from the end of the Second World War until 1977, when Ethiopia began receiving massive arms shipments from the Soviet Union.[68] These shipments, including armored patrol boats, transport and jet fighter aircraft, helicopters, tanks, trucks, missiles, artillery, and small arms have incurred an unserviced Ethiopian debt to the former Soviet Union estimated at more than $3.5 billion.

Ethiopia made significant purchases of arms from Russia in late 1999 and early 2000 before the May 2000 United Nations arms embargo went into effect.[50] It is likely that much of that equipment suffered battle damage in the war with Eritrea. Thus, raw numbers alone will probably overstate the capacity of the ENDF.

Modern ground forces equipmentEdit

Infantry weaponsEdit

Name Type Origins Notes
Makarov Semi-automatic pistol   Soviet Union [69]
M1911 Semi-automatic pistol   United States [69][70]
Beretta Model 38 Submachine gun   Italy [69]
Uzi Submachine gun   Israel [69]
AK-103 Assault rifle   Russia
The Gafat Armament Engineering Complex produces the AK-103 rifle in Ethiopia. Supplements the AKM and AK-47 in the Ethiopian Armed Forces.[70]
AK-47 Assault rifle   Russia
M16 rifle Assault rifle   United States
[69][70] Used by United Nations peacekeeping
AKM Assault rifle   Soviet Union 100,000+[69][70]
BM59 Battle rifle   Italy [69]
HK G3 Battle rifle   West Germany [71]
Vz. 58 Assault rifle   Czechoslovakia [69]
RP-46 "Degtyaryov" Light machine gun   Soviet Union [69]
RPD Light machine gun   Soviet Union [69]
RPK Light machine gun   Soviet Union [69]
DShK Heavy machine gun   Soviet Union [69]
PSL Designated marksman rifle   Romania Was used by Ethiopian soldier training with an American 10th Mountain Division counterpart.[72]

Tanks and armored fighting vehiclesEdit

The Military Balance 2012 estimated that about 450 BRDM, BMP, BTR-60, BTR-152, and Type 89 armoured fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers were in service.[4]

A total of 150 T-55 - 90 from   Soviet Union, +40 from Belarus, +19 from Bulgaria, +50 from   East Germany, +90 from   Ukraine, and 150 T-54 ( 60 from East Germany) may have been in service over the years. Up to 150 M113 armoured personnel carriers may have been delivered from the United States.

Name Type Origins Notes
T-72 Main battle tank   Soviet Union
300+[73] delivered.
  • 50 T-72s (bought from Yemen)
T-62 Main battle tank   Soviet Union
T-54/55 Main battle tank   Soviet Union
ASU-57 Assault gun   Soviet Union several dozen received in 1977
BTS-5B Armored recovery vehicle   Ukraine 4 ex-Ukrainian; BTS-5B version; possibly modernized before delivery[74]
BMP-1 Infantry fighting vehicle   Soviet Union 80[75] received. These vehicles were ordered in 1977 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1977 and 1978.[74] Current condition unknown.
YW-534/Type-89 Armored personnel carrier   China 10 delivered in 2013[74]
WZ-523/Type-05 IFV   China 20 delivered in 2013[74]


Name Type Quantity Origins Notes
Type-88/WA-021 155mm self-propelled howitzer 18   China
M-109|M-109A1 155mm self propelled howitzer 17   United States
Type-63 107mm MRLS 25   China
BM-21 Grad 122mm MRLs 158   Soviet Union
2S19 Msta 152mm SPH 12   Russia [4]
2S5 152mm SPH 10   Russia
  Soviet Union
2S1 Gvozdika 122mm SPH 10+   Soviet Union [4]
D-20 152mm towed howitzer 20   Soviet Union
M-46 130mm towed gun +   Russia
  Soviet Union
138 delivered
D-30 122mm towed howitzer 250   Russia
  Soviet Union
640 delivered
M-30 122mm towed howitzer 100   Soviet Union 250 delivered
M101 105mm towed howitzer ?   United States 52 delivered; status unknown
Oto Melara Pack M-56 105mm towed howitzer ?   Italy 4-40 delivered
T-12 2A19 100mm gun +   Soviet Union 50 delivered
D-44 85mm gun ?   Soviet Union Status unknown
ZIS-3 M-1943 76mm gun ?   Soviet Union
M116 75mm pack howitzer ?   United States 36 delivered; status unknown
M-43 120mm heavy mortar 100 +   Soviet Union
QF-25 25PDR 87.6mm towed gun/howitzer reported   United Kingdom out of service
M30 107mm heavy mortar +   United States 146 delivered
M2 107mm heavy mortar +   United States 140 delivered
M-43 82mm medium mortar +   Soviet Union
M29/M-29A1 81mm medium mortar +   United States
M1 81mm medium mortar +   United States
M19 60mm light mortar +   United States

Air defense & anti-tank weaponsEdit

16 M55 Quad quadruple anti-aircraft machine guns may have been in service from the US. M163 Vulcan self-propelled anti-aircraft guns may have been ordered but never delivered.

Name Type Quantity Origins Notes
HQ-64 / LY-60 Medium-range SAM 1[74]   China
Kolchuga passive sensor Passive radio detection radar station 3[76]   Ukraine
ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 60[77]   Soviet Union
ZSU-57-2 Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 10[78]   Soviet Union 10 ordered in 1977 from Soviet Union and delivered in 1978 (the vehicles were previously in Soviet service).
SA-3 Goa SAM 25 (x4) launchers\900 missiles   Soviet Union S-125 Neva\Pechoca
SA-2 Guideline SAM 18 launchers   Soviet Union S-75 Dvina
SA-6 Gainful SP-SAM   Soviet Union 2K12 Kub[79]
SA-4 Ganef SP-SAM   Soviet Union 2K11 Krug
SA-9 Gaskin SP-SAM   Soviet Union 9K31 Strela-1[80]
Kombat [uk; ru] Laser guided Anti-Tank Missile 250   Ukraine 1250 ordered from Ukraine in 2011 for T-72 tanks[74]
Pantsir missile system Self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon   Russia [81]
SA-7/SA-7B MANPAD   Soviet Union [4]
M-1939 37mm towed AAG   Soviet Union
S-60 57mm towed AAG   Soviet Union
ZPU 14.5mm x2\4 towed AAG   Soviet Union
Son-9 fire control radar 20   Soviet Union
Oerlikon-S 20mm AAG out of service    Switzerland
Bofors M36 40mm AAG out of service   Sweden
  United States
50 delivered
BGM71-A\C TOW ATGM Launcher 22 launchers/600 missiles   United States
AT-14 Kornet-E ATGM Launcher 80 reported   Russia
AT-6 Spiral ATGM Launcher 10   Soviet Union 9K114 Shturm
AT-4 Spigot ATGM Launcher 50   Soviet Union 9K-111 Fagot
AT-3 Sagger ATGM 1,000 missiles   Soviet Union 9K-11 Malyutka, for BMP-1 & BRDM-2
Nord SS-11 ATGM 4 launchers   France
RPG-7\RPG-7V Light ATRLs   Soviet Union
RPG-18 Light ATRLs   Russia
M72 LAW Light ATRLs   United States Status unknown
M79 GL 1,009 delivered   United States
B-11 RCL 107mm   Soviet Union
M40A1C RCL 105/6mm   United States
B-10 82mm RCL   Soviet Union
QLZ-87 35×32 mm AGL   China

Logistics and support vehiclesEdit

Name Type Quantity Origins Notes
HMMWV Armored multi-purpose vehicle 2,100   United States Sold under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales.[82]
ZiL Truck +   Soviet Union
Ural Truck +   Soviet Union
PTS-M Amphibious transporter +   Soviet Union
REO M35 Truck +   United States
GAZ-63 Truck +   Soviet Union
Gaz-3308 Truck +   Russia
UAZ-469 Utility +   Soviet Union
M37 Light truck +   United States
Toyota Land Cruiser Utility +   Japan
Mercedes Benz Truck +   Germany
Ford M151A1/2 Jeep +   United States
Willys Jeep Jeep +   United States
MTU-55 AVLB +   Soviet Union
T-55 ARV Recovery tank +   Soviet Union


Name Type Quantity Origins Notes
DCH-6 Transport aircraft 2   Canada
Bell 205 Helicopter 8   United States

See alsoEdit


  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website

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  • Ayele, Fantahun (2014). The Ethiopian Army: from Victory to Collapse 1977-91. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
  • Fontanellaz, Adrien; Cooper, Tom (2018). Ethiopian-Eritrean Wars: Volume 2: Eritrean War of Independence, 1988-1991 & Badme War, 1998-2001. Africa@War No. 30. Warwick: Helion & Company. ISBN 978-1-912390-30-4.
  • Library of Congress Federal Research Division, Country Profile: Ethiopia, April 2005, accessed July 2012.
  • Lipsky, George (1964). U.S. Army Area Handbook for Ethiopia. Washington DC.: American University, for U.S. Govt. Printing Office., Second Edition.
  • Ofcansky, Thomas P.; Berry, LaVerle Bennette (1993). Ethiopia : A Country Study. Washington DC.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O.
  • Shinn, David Hamilton; Ofcansky, Thomas P. (2004). Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810849100.

Further readingEdit

  • Adejumobi and Binega, Budgeting for the Military Sector in Africa, Ch. 3
  • Baissa, Lemmu (1989). "United States Military Assistance to Ethiopia, 1953-1974: A Reappraisal of a Difficult Patron-Client RELATIONSHIP". Northeast African Studies. 11 (3).
  • Bendix, Daniel ; Stanley, Ruth. / Security Sector Reform in Africa. The Promise and the Practice of a New Donor Approach. In: Accord Occasional Paper Series. 2008 ; Vol. 3, No. 2 - includes a note indicating British supported SSDAT/DfID/FCO/MOD defense transformation in Ethiopia.
  • Prof Laura Cleary, Ethiopia, in Security Sector Horizon Scanning 2016 - to support Agile Warrior Director Strategy, British Army, Andover, c2016, ISBN 978-1-907413-35-3
  • Jeffrey Isima, Report on the current position with regard to the security sector in Ethiopia, 2003
  • Mesfin, Berouk, Rebel Movements in Ethiopia, in Caroline Varin, Dauda Abubakar (eds) Violent Non-State Actors in Africa: Terrorists, Rebels and Warlords, Springer, 2017.
  • Laurie Nathan, No Ownership, No Commitment, GfN-SSR/University of Birmingham, 2007. Section on DDR Commission.
  • Colin Robinson, Defence Reform since 1990 in Atieno and Robinson (eds.), Post-conflict Security, Peace and Development: Perspectives from Africa, Latin America, Europe and New Zealand, Springer, 2018.
  • Gebru Tareke, The Ethiopian Revolution: War in the Horn of Africa, Yale Library of Military History

Further sources on defense in Ethiopia include SSR in Ethiopia, A Prerequisite for Democracy.

External linksEdit

  This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website