Here’s what we know about the military aircraft delivered to Mali Air Force

In a ceremony held in the presence of Colonel Assimi Goïta, the leader of the Malian military junta, and the Russian ambassador to Mali, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) took delivery of a varied array of military aircraft on August 9, 2022. 

The exact number, type, and provenance of the material received were at first unclear, with the authorities of Bamako only describing them as “new aircraft” in their calendar. 

However, later in the day, the FAMa published a press release about the ceremony in which it detailed with more precision the type of aircraft received. 

In addition to the four L-39C Albatros light attack aircraft and a Mil Mi-24P attack helicopter first seen in TV reports of the event, the FAMa reported receiving at least one Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack plane.  

“We are consolidating our reconnaissance and attack capability with L-39 and Sukhoi 25 fighter jets, which are added to the Super Tucano and other aircraft already in service,” said Sadio Camara, the Malian Minister of Defense. “As well as the Mi-24P type attack helicopters, which are added to the Mi-35 and the Mi-24 already delivered.” 

The Su-25 Frogfoot is a significant improvement in speed and payload capacity compared to the L-39 and Embraer EMB 314 Tucano already operated by the Mali Air Force. The aircraft is armed with a 30 mm cannon and can embark up to four tons of ammunition. However, it’s much more limited range (1,000 kilometers/621 miles maximum when flying empty) might hinder its deployment on the 1.24 million square kilometers (478 thousand square miles) of Mali. 

Though the provider was not mentioned, the type and livery of the equipment received, the presence of a Russian diplomatic and military delegation, and the recent development in Mali’s political landscape, strongly suggest that these aircraft were delivered by Moscow. 

Odd one out

But there is an anomaly in the impressive presentation. In addition to these attack aircraft, the FAMa also boasted of receiving a second CASA C295 aircraft.  

“Mobility is also enhanced with […] the second Airbus CASA C295 tactical transport aircraft, which thus complement the Mi-171, the first CASA and other existing means of transport [in the Mali Air Force fleet],” Camara said. 

This medium tactical transporter can transport 71 combatants, 48 equipped paratroopers, 24 stretchers, or five pallets and can operate from short (no longer than 670 meters/2,200 feet) and unprepared airstrips. 

However, unlike the rest of the arsenal on display, it is not manufactured, let alone operated by Russia. Designed by the late Spanish manufacturer CASA, it is now built by the European planemaker Airbus Defence and Space. 

Moreover, the aircraft shown on the tarmac of Bamako International Airport (BKO) with the registration number TZ-12T was delivered on May 31, 2022, and has been flying for Mali Air Force ever since. 

Ordered in December 2020, it was supposed to be delivered in June 2021. However, due to US sanctions imposed over the suspicion that the FAMa was recruiting child soldiers, the delivery was delayed by a year, as the transponder of the C295 is manufactured in the United States. 

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