Mali took delivery of at least 4 L-39C Albatros light attack aircraft and a Mil Mi-35 attack helicopter.
The fleet was received on August 9, 2022, during a ceremony on the tarmac of Bamako International Airport (BKO) in the presence of Colonel Assimi Goïta, the leader of the Malian military junta.
The exact provenance of the aircraft destined to arm the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) was not made public. However, pictures shared on social media leave little doubt: the light attack aircraft are painted with the same livery as the ones flown by the Russian Air Force, save for the Malian markings.
#Mali – Some more pics from an ORTM TV report, 40min ago. Showing the four L-39 Jets and a new Mil Mi 24P helicopter. And some Russian military on the VIP stand. pic.twitter.com/Jo6Nr2gI7w— Fabian (@fabsenbln) August 9, 2022
Though primarily developed as a trainer aircraft, the L-39 Albatross produced by Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody is also employed as a ground support aircraft by many air forces around the world. The Malian Air Force already operates four Embraer EMB 314 Tucano turboprops in the same role.
The Mil Mi-35 attack helicopter will join seven Mi-24/35 operated by the Malian Air Force, including four Hinds that Russia delivered between January 2020 and April 2021.
A Malian Hind was recently involved in an incident in which six rockets were fired near British soldiers deployed as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The United Nations and France have been deployed in Mali and the Sahel region since 2013 to deter Islamic insurgents active in the area. However, after two coups d’état in 2020 and 2021 that put into power a new military junta, France and its allies announced their departure from the country.
In parallel, the junta progressively grew closer to Moscow through military cooperation agreements. Since September 2021, the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group has been active in Mali.