Ethiopian National Defense Force

Ethiopian National Defense Force
Ethiopian National Defense Force
Flag of Ethiopia.svg
Flag of Ethiopia
Service branches Ethiopian Army, Ethiopian Air Force, Ethiopian Navy (1955-1991)
Military age 18
Active personnel 182,500 (ranked 23rd)
Budget $450 million (2007)
Percent of GDP 2.4%
Domestic suppliers Hibret Machine Tools Engineering company
Gafat Armament Engineering Complex
Bishoftu Motorization Engineering Complex
Dejen Aviation Engineering Complex
Homicho Ammunition Engineering Complex
Nazareth Canvass and Garment Factory
Zuqualla Steel Rolling Mill
Branna Printing Enterprise
Foreign suppliers  United States

Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) is the military 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. Current defense minister is Siraj Fergessa. [1]. Size of the ENDF has fluctuated significantly since the end of Ethiopia-Eritrea war in 2000. In 2002 the Ethiopian Defense Forces had strength of approximately 400.000 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]

At the moment, ENDF consists of at least two three separate branches: Ground Forces and Ethiopian Air Force. [4] Being a landlocked country, Ethiopia today has no navy. Ethiopia had acquired a coastline on the Red Sea in 1950 and created the Ethiopian Navy in 1955. The navy operated until Eritrea's independence in 1991 left Ethiopia landlocked again. Ethiopia has several defence industrial organizations that produce and overhaul different weapons systems. Most of these were built under the Derg regime which had plans for a large military industrial complex. Ethiopian armed forces relies on voluntary military service of people above 18 years of age. Although no there is no compulsory military service, armed forces can conduct call-ups when necessary and compliance is compulsory. [5]


History of the Army

Soldier of Ethiopian National Defense Force, 2006.

The Ethiopian army's origins and military traditions span back through the nation's long history. Due to Ethiopia's location at the crossroads between the Middle East and Africa, it has long been in the middle of Eastern and Western politics, and its army has been tested for many centuries by foreign aggression. From the Egyptian aggression to Ottoman invasion, to the European invasion at Adwa and concerns from the 21st century global war on terror, the country has tackled several instances of foreign aggression through out its history. In 1579, the Ottoman attempt to expand from a coastal base at Massawa was defeated. Ethiopia was also able to defeat Egyptians in 1868 at Gura, led by Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV.

European opinion about Ethiopia (also known as Abyssinia by some Europeans) was that the, "Abyssinians are suffering from 'superiority complex' which may be traced to Gundet, Gura and Adwa" [6]

Ethiopia's modern military history generally dates from its response to the European colonial expansion of the 19th century during the Scramble for Africa, during which it maintained its independence by defeating the army of the Kingdom of Italy in the Battle of Adwa.

Modern history

Battle of Adwa

The Battle of Adowa (also known as Adwa or sometimes by the Italian name Adua) is the best known victory of Ethiopian forces over invaders, which 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, Negus Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam, Ras Makonnen, Ras Mengesha Yohannes, and Ras Mikael of Wollo, Emperor Menelek II of Ethiopia not only struck a powerful blow against the Italians, but also to contemporary racial prejudices. In the words of historian-anglophile Bahru Zewde, "It was a victory of blacks over whites."[7]

The Ethiopian army had been able to execute the strategic plan of Menelik's headquarters, contrary to a feudal system of organization and any objective circumstances. So additionally to bravery of Ethiopian soldiers, the special role herein played the Russian military advisers and volunteers of Leontiev's mission.[8][9][10] So the first was problem of the quality of its arms, as the Italian and British colonial authorities could sabotage the transportation of 100,000-60,000 modern Berdan rifles from Russia into landlocked Ethiopia.[11] The Ethiopian army was also based on a feudal system of organization; as a result, nearly the entire army was peasant militia. Russian military experts advising Menelik II suggested to try to get to full contact battle collision with Italians (to neutralize fire superiority of opponent), instead engaging in a campaign of harassment to nullify problems with arms, training, and organization.[12] In the battle that ensued wave upon wave of Menelik's warriors attacked the Italians.

Boundary confrontation ("cold" war) against the British colonialists 1896-1899

After successful colonial capture of the Sudan, Kenya and Uganda, the Britannic expansion against Ethiopia becomes the real danger, this danger for a time will diminish only after the start Second Boer War 1899-1902. The Ethiopian army became more effective against British colonial forces. The numerous expeditions of Ethiopian forces could stopped colonial expansion. As the Russian Alexander Bulatovich one of the Russian military advisers and participant of expedition of legendary army of Ras Wolde Giyorgis wrote: "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 the most usual 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 spare 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 whom it is no shortage."[12]

In obedience to the agreement with Russia and the order of Menelik II, First Ethiopian officers had begun to be trained at the First Russian cadet school in 1901. 30-40 Ethiopian officers were trained in the Russia from 1901-1913.

Under Haile Selassie I

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.[13]

However, these efforts were not sufficient nor instituted in enough time to stop the rising tide of Italian fascism. Ethiopia lost its independence in the Italian invasion of Ethiopia of 1935-36. The country regained its independence after the 1941 East African Campaign of World War II with the intervention of forces from the British Commonwealth.

Pre-World War II military equipment

Aircraft of the pre-WWII Ethiopian Air-Force

Korean War

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 Mulugueta Bulli, 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.[14] 3,518 Ethiopian troops served in the war, where 121 were killed and 536 wounded during the Korean War.[15]

After the Ethiopian Revolution

At the beginning of the Ethiopian Revolution, which led to rule by a junta of military officers known as the Derg ("Committee"), Emperor Haile Selassie carefully 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."[16] 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).[16]

When the Derg gained control of Ethiopia, they shifted their source for the equipment, organization and training away from Western European and American governments towards those of 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 the Ethiopian Civil War that toppled Ethiopian former military dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991 and also by repelling an invasion launched by Somalia in the 1977–1978 Ogaden War.

The Ethiopian army grew considerably during this time under the Derg (1974–1987), and the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia under Mengistu (1987–1991), especially during the latter regime. Gebru Tareke describes the organization of the Ethiopian military in early 1990, a year before Mengistu fled the country:

Ethiopian ground forces comprised four revolutionary armies organized as task forces, eleven corps, twenty-four infantry divisions, and four mountain divisions, reinforced by five mechanized divisions, two airborne divisions, and ninety-five brigades, including four mechanized 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.[17]

Estimated forces under arms increased dramatically:[18]

  • 1974: 41,000 (Ethiopian Revolution)
  • 1977: 50,000 (Ogaden War)
  • 1979: 65,000
  • 1991: 230,000 (overthrow of Mengistu)

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[19]:

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

1991 Order of Battle

By 1991, the Ethiopian army under Mengistu government had grown in size, but the regime was overcome by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ, former EPLF), Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and other opposition factions during a decades long civil war. 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 only be about 30% operational because of the withdrawal of financial support, lack of maintenance expertise and parts from the Soviet Union, Cuba and other nations.[18]

Army commands consisted of the following:

  • First Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Harar)
  • Second Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Asmera)
  • Third Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Kombolcha)
  • Fourth Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Nekemte)
  • Fifth Revolutionary Army (headquartered at Gondar)

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


War on Terror

Since the fall of Mengistu, the Ethiopian army under the EPRDF party has been called into service fighting counter-insurgency campaigns, and also fought against the newly independent Eritrea and joined America's "war on terror" by driving the Islamic Courts Union out of Mogadishu in the War in Somalia.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with the rise of radical Islamism, Ethiopia again turned to the Western powers for alliance and assistance. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Ethiopian army began to train with US forces based out of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) established in Djibouti, in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. Ethiopia allowed the US to station military advisors at Camp Hurso.[20] 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.[21]

Ethiopia-Eritrea war

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. 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.[22] 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.


Ethiopia sent troops to southern Somalia to help the UN backed weak transitional government. The TFG, Ethiopia and Puntland fought together against al Shabab and other radical islamists to take over the capital Mogadishu. After the islamists split into two groups, moderate islamists led by 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. Government forces have been engaged in battle against Ogaden insurgents led by the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Ground Forces

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

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 World War II until 1977, when Ethiopia began receiving massive arms shipments from the Soviet Union.[citation needed] 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.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated in the Military Balance 2009 that the army comprised 4 Military Regional Commands; (Northern (HQ Mekele.[23]), Western, Central, and Eastern) each acting as corps HQ.[24] There was also a Support Command and a strategic reserve of 4 divisions and 6 specialist brigades centred on Addis Ababa.

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

One identified division is the 25th.[25] 31st Division Commander, Colonel Tsegaye Marx, Tigre 2. 33rd Division Commander, Colonel Kidane, Tigre

3. 35th Division

4. 24th Division

5. 22nd Division

6. 14th Division

7. 21st Division

8. 11th Division

9. 25th Division

10. 20th Division

11. 8th Mechanized Division,

12. 4th Mechanized Division,

13. 19th Division

14. 44th Division

15. 13th Division

16. 12th Division

17. 32nd Division

18. 6th Mech. Division

19. 23rd Division

20. 43rd Division

21. 26th Division

22. 7th Mech. Division

Modern ground forces equipment

Infantry weapons

Name Type Origins Notes
Makarov Semi-automatic pistol  Soviet Union [26]
Beretta Model 38 Sub-machinegun  Italy [27]
UZI Sub-machinegun  Israel [28]
AK-103 Assault rifle  Russia\ Ethiopia The Gafat Armament Engineering Complex produces the AK-103 rifle in Ethiopia. Supplements the AKM and AK-47 in the Ethiopian Armed Forces.[29]
AK-47 Assault rifle  Soviet Union [30]
AKM Assault rifle  Soviet Union 100,000+ [31][32]
BM59 Assault rifle  Italy [33]
G3 Assault rifle  Germany [34]
Vz. 58 Assault rifle  Czechoslovakia [33]
TAR-21 Bullpup assault rifle  Israel Ethiopian Prime Minister bodyguards were seen with the TAR-21. [35][36]
RP-46 "Degtyaryov" Light machinegun  Soviet Union [37]
RPD Light machinegun  Soviet Union [33]
RPK Light machinegun  Soviet Union [33]
DShK Heavy machinegun  Soviet Union [33]

Armored fighting vehicles

Name Type Quantity Origins Notes
T-72A Main battle tank 250[38]  Soviet Union\ Ukraine First 50 bought from Yemen, remaining 200 ordered from Ukraine in 2011.
T-62 Main battle tank 100[39]  Soviet Union
T-54/55 Main battle tank 250[40]  Soviet Union
BTR-60PB Armored personnel carrier 80[41]  Soviet Union
BMP-1 Infantry fighting vehicle 70  Soviet Union These vehicles were ordered in 1977 from Soviet Union and delivered between 1977 and 1978. [42] Current condition unknown.


Name Type Quantity Origins Notes
M109A1 Self-propelled gun 155mm  ????  United States Unknown number of systems delivered. [43]

Air defense

Name Type Quantity Origins Notes
ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 60 [44]  Soviet Union
ZSU-57-2 Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 10 [45]  Soviet Union 10 ordered in 1977 from Soviet Union and delivered in 1978 (the vehicles were previously in Soviet service).

Logistics and support vehicles

Name Type Quantity Origins Notes
HMMWV Armored multi-purpose vehicle  ????  United States Unknown quantity delivered. [46]


Ethiopia has served in various United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions. These have included the Ivory Coast,[47][48] on the Burundi border,[47][49] 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 (2003) 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.[50] 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."[51] 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.[52][53]

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.

  1. ^
  2. ^ "Ethiopia Armed Forces". Nations Encyclopedia. 
  3. ^ "Ethiopian army eager to learn from U.S. soldiers". Stars and Stripes. 2007-01-07. Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Clapham, Christopher 1987. Transformation and Continuity in Revolutionary Ethiopia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Crabites, Pierre.
  7. ^ Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia (London: James Currey, 1991), p. 81.
  9. ^ Who Was Count Abai?.
  10. ^ The activities of the officer the Kuban Cossack army N.S. Leontjev in the Italian-Ethiopic war in 1895-1896
  11. ^ [http://www.vostlit.nfo/Texts/Dokumenty/Aethiopien/Artamonov/framepred.htm Leonid Artamonov, a Russian general, geographer and traveler, military adviser of Menelik II, as one of Russian officers of volunteers attached to the forces of Ras Tessema (wrote: Through Ethiopia to the White Nile).]
  12. ^ a b - WITH THE ARMIES OF MENELIK II by Alexander K. Bulatovich
  13. ^ Ethiopia Military Tradition in National Life Library of Congress
  14. ^ As described at the Ethiopian Korean War Veterans website.
  15. ^ "U.S. Forces/Allies in the Korean War: Factsheet". United States Army. Retrieved 2007-02-15. 
  16. ^ a b Cited in Marina and David Ottaway, Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution (New York: Africana, 1978), p. 45.
  17. ^ Gebru Tareke, The Ethiopian Revolution: War in the Horn of Africa (New Haven: Yale University, 2009), p. 120
  18. ^ a b Ethiopia: Army Library of Congress Country Studies
  19. ^ Ethiopia: Cuba Library of Congress Country Studies
  20. ^ "U.S. trainers prepare Ethiopians to fight". Stars and Stripes. 2006-12-30. Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  21. ^ Memo: Meritorious Unit Commendation for 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 2d Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), Fort Drum, NY 13602, from 2nd Brigade, 10th MD(LI), 21 January 2004, downloaded from Internet and accessed mid September 2007.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ IISS Military Balance 2009, p.301
  25. ^
  26. ^ Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009-2010. 2009. 
  27. ^ Jones, Richard (2009). Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009-2010. Jane's Information Group. pp. 894–905. ISBN 0710628692. 
  28. ^ Jones, Richard D. (ed.); Ness, Leland S. (ed.) (27 January 2009). Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009–2010 (35th ed.). Coulsdon, Surry: Jane's Information Group. p. 117. ISBN 978-0710628695. OCLC 268790196. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ Janes; Leland S. Ness (2009-12). Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009-2010. Jane's Information Group. ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5. 
  31. ^ Janes; Leland S. Ness (2009-12). Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009-2010. Jane's Information Group. ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b c d e Jones, Richard D. Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009/2010. Jane's Information Group; 35 edition (January 27, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5.
  34. ^ Gangarosa, Gene Jr. (2001). Heckler & Koch—Armorers of the Free World. Maryland: Stoeger Publishing. ISBN 0-88317-229-1. 
  35. ^ [1]
  36. ^ [2]
  37. ^ Jones, Richard D.; Ness, Leland S., eds (January 27, 2009). Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009/2010 (35th ed.). Coulsdon: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5. 
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ Military balance 2004-2005
  41. ^ Czołgi Świata, Issue 41, p 11, 12
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 
  44. ^ "ZSU-23-4". Jane's Information Group. 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  45. ^ Witold Mikiciuk "Jowitek" (1 April 2001). "57 mm samobieżna armata przeciwlotnicza ZSU-57-2". MULTIMEDIA POLSKA. Retrieved 29 August 2008. 
  46. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 
  47. ^ a b Ethiopian peacekeeping in Africa
  48. ^ Ethiopian peacekeeping missions
  49. ^ Ethiopian peacekeeping missions in Burundi
  50. ^ UNMIL in Liberia
  51. ^ Ethiopian troops awarded UN peacekeeping medals
  52. ^ More Ethiopian troops arrive in Darfur bolstering peacekeeping operation
  53. ^ UNAMID

External links

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