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Ethiopian Navy

When Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Ethiopia became a landlocked nation. Most of the small Ethiopian navy was ceded to Eritrea at that time.

In 1958 the Ethiopian navy became an autonomous branch of the armed forces, operating as a coast guard within the territorial waters off Eritrea. Until 1974 a small contingent of retired British naval personnel served as advisers and training supervisors. In 1974 Addis Ababa and Oslo signed an agreement whereby Norway organized and trained a modest maritime force. Starting in 1978, Soviet advisers were attached to the Ethiopian navy.

By 1991, Ethiopia's 3,500-member navy remained modest and had seen little combat. Its inventory included two frigates, eight missile craft, six torpedo craft, six patrol boats, two amphibious craft, and two support/training craft.

Ethiopia's principal naval bases were at Mitsiwa and Aseb. The base at Aseb included a ship-repair facility. In the past, the navy had cooperated with elements of the Soviet fleet operating in the Red Sea. Soviet naval vessels also made frequent calls at Ethiopian ports to resupply and refit. Moreover, the Soviet Union maintained naval facilities in the Dahlak Islands off the coast of Eritrea. The Soviet Union had an anchorage and stationed a naval infantry detachment there; it reportedly also operated intelligence facilities there. After they were expelled from Somalia in 1977 for siding with Ethiopia, Soviet personnel moved a dry dock they had operated at Berbera in Somalia to Aseb and later positioned it off the coast in the Dahlak Islands. At one time, they also had several Il-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft stationed at Asmera, but by 1989 these aircraft had been moved to Aden because the EPLF had destroyed one of the Soviet aircraft in a daring raid.

During Eritrea's thirty-year fight for independence from Ethiopia, the Eritirean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) successfully employed a very effective Maritime irregular warfare (MIW) strategy against the Ethiopian Navy. The EPLF's high-speed gunboat was fashioned by mounting a twin 2 0mm anti-aircraft weapon on a 20 ft fiberglass hull powered by dual outboard engines. These boats were then used along the coast for interdiction operations and to support small raids ashore. Unable to purchase MIW specific systems the EPLF combined readily available and low-cost civilian boat hulls with crew served weapons captured in the field from the Ethiopian Army.

On February 10, 1990, the EPLF captured the port of Massaua. The fall of this strategically important port isolated Ethiopia's Second Revolutionary Army and eventually resulted in the loss of Eritrea. Additionally, the EPLF used its small fleet of armed speed boats to sink or cripple most Ethiopian navy ships anchored in Mitsiwa harbor. In 1991, the last transfer of the Soviet warship of the Navy of Ethiopia took place - the sea minesweeper of project 266M MT-301 was transferred. Just built on the Central Nevsky Shipyard in the village. Pontoon, it was transmitted from the Baltic Fleet.

Ethiopia, by mid-1990, had a large and strong fleet of 3,500-4,000 personnel, and the commander of the Navy was subordinate to the Minister of Defense. The shipboard consisted of:

  • 2 1070-ton SKR pr.159 ( Petya II ) - " F -1616" (07.21.1983 "SKR-94") and " F -1617" (03.19.1984 "SKR-115").
  • 2 250-ton TKA pr.206ME (Turya) - “ FTB -112”, “ FTB -113”.
  • 4 245-ton RCA pr.205ER (Osa II ) - “ FMB -160”, “ FMB -161”, “ FMB -162”, “ FMB -163”.
  • 2 200-ton TKA pr.205ET (MOL) - " FTB -110", " FTB -111" were transferred in 1978 from the Navy NDRY ..
  • 3 118-ton American patrol boats of the Swiftships 105 type - “ P -201”, “ P -203”, “ P -204”.
  • 4 50-ton AK pr.1400ME (Zhuk) - “R-205”, “R-206”, “R-207”, “R-208”.
  • 1 80-ton US Cape type patrol boat - “ PC -15.”

Support ships:

  • 1 2800-ton training vessel "Ethiopia", armed with 1-127 mm gun.
  • 1 720-ton MTSC, pr. 266M (Natya) from 01.1991 - “No. 634”.
  • 1 420-ton coastal minesweeper pr.1265 (Sonya) 1989 -. «? 441"
  • 2 800-ton SDK pr.771 (Polnochny B-class LTC.) - “LCT-1037” and “LCT-1038”.
  • 1 670 ton French Edic class LTC - «LCT-1034."
  • 2 995-ton West Chamo LCLS class. - "LCT-1035", "LCT-1036".
  • 6 38-ton recreation centers, project 1785 (T-4 class LCVPs.)
  • 1 coastal tanker type Toplivo-2 - “A-502”.
  • 4 11.5-ton American coastal patrol boats of the GB type - “ GB- 21”, “ GB- 22”, “ GB- 23”, “ GB -24”.

The Addis Ababa-based Ethiopian Naval Headquarters (GHQ) ran ships in distant Yemen. Surprisingly, they still sometimes performed patrols in the Red Sea, for example, the patrol boat “P-15” performed such a service in 1992. In 1993, Yemen was tired of hosting the ships of the Ethiopian fleet, and most of them - 16 vessels had to leave in Djibouti. However, some vessels, including the Ethiopia training frigate , were out of service due to a lack of repair and were abandoned in Yemen. With them remained 200 Ethiopian sailors who had long lived in Yemen as displaced persons. While ships stood in Djibouti the Ethiopian admiralty began negotiations with Eritrea, which the United Nations recognized in 1993 as an independent country. Ethiopia has asked to rent a pier in Assab to continue to operate the fleet, even though the country no longer had a coast. But Eritrea saw no reason to place an enemy garrison in its port and refused. The farce with negotiations lasted for another two and a half years, while the vessels, standing in Djibouti, became unusable, and the national government began to be weighed down by the maintenance of the vessels, especially since they already owed significant sums.

Ethiopia did not help either, in 1996, it helped Eritrea during its crisis with Yemen, leasing four helicopters (they did not return back) and allowed Eritrea at the end of the year to buy several Ethiopian naval vessels, including the RPA pr.205ER (Osa II class ) “FMB-163” and three patrol boats of the Swiftships 105 type - “R-201”, “R-203”, “R-204” put up for sale the government of Djibouti. Earlier on September 17, 1996, the Government of Djibouti seized Ethiopian ships to auction them for port costs. Including SKR "F-1617", MTSC pr. 266M, BTSC pr. 1265, 2 AK pr. 1400ME "R-206", "R-207". Later in 1996, the Ethiopian Naval Headquarters (GHQ) in Addis Ababa was quietly disbanded and thus, the short 41-year life of the Ethiopian fleet was over.

In 2009, the only warship remaining in Ethiopia was an American Sewart patrol boat transferred back in 1966 to the GB- 21, which at one time was transported inland to Lake Tana.

Abiy Ahmed on his state television statement in the summer of 2018: “We have built some of the most powerful land and air forces in Africa ... We must also provide all the opportunities for our naval forces in the future."

The peace agreement, signed by the two states in September 2018 with the goal of ending the 20-year confrontation, opened up the possibility for Ethiopia to regain access to the ports of Eritrea, which would reduce dependence on Djibouti in matters of cargo transportation.

However, in an interview with General Berhan Jule, a proposal was made to create a new naval base on the Indian Ocean, and not on the Red Sea. Ethiopia is currently conducting consultations with several countries on the restoration, staffing and equipment of the fleet.

The general also noted that many countries from other regions are interested in establishing naval bases in Somalia, Djibouti, Puntland and Eritrea. Thus, China built a naval base in Djibouti, and the United Arab Emirates uses the Eritrean port of Assab to support a military operation in Yemen and builds a naval base and air base near the city of Berbera, controlled by the self-proclaimed Somaliland.

According to TsAMTO, Berbera is the most obvious alternative to Eritrea as the naval base of the Ethiopian Navy. In March, Addis Ababa acquired a 19% stake in the project to create and manage the port of Somaliland by an operator from the UAE DP World. Plans include improving the road connecting Berbera with Vazhale on the Ethiopian border. Somaliland is likely to be ready to deploy the Ethiopian fleet, counting on support for de facto independence from Mogadishu.




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