Ethiopian Air Force Ranks: A Complete Guide

Ethiopian Air Force Ranks is the hierarchal structure of the Ethiopian Air Force in which officers, Airmen and enlisted personnel operates on.

Air Force’s ranks just like every other ranking structures in the various military formations worldwide is used to differentiate the levels in any military organisation.

Apart for popular ranks like Sergeant, Captain, Major, and General which are famous in movies, people don’t have a correct understanding of military ranks, not the ability to put them in proper order. Understanding the Ethiopian Air Force ranks is essential for new Airmen, but it’s also extremely important to new Soldiers, and civilians alike.

Ethiopian Air Force female pilot

Overview of the Ethiopian Air Force

The Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) is the aerial branch of the Ethiopian National Defence Force. It comprises of more than 3000 men, operating roughly 400 aircrafts. It’s Current commander is Brigadier General Yilma Merdasa who was appointed 2018.

It’s main role is defending Ethiopia’s national sovereignty from aggressors both foreign and domestic. It also provides support to the Ethiopian Army, as well as assisting the civil authorities during emergencies. The Ethiopian Air Force was commissioned in 18 August 1929; 91 years ago. It has participated in several conflicts and crises which includes:

Brief history of the Ethiopian Air Force

The Ethiopian Air Force started with the purchase of a Potez 25-A2 on 18 August 1929 and then a Junkers E33c. The Ethiopian Air Force was organized by a Russian Mishka Babitchef, who was also the first Ethiopian pilot.

Ethiopian Air Force pilots in front of an F-83F

During the Battle of Anchem on 31 March 1930, three of the biplanes from Ethiopia’s air force helped Haile Selassie defeat coup-plotting conservative forces.

A few transport aircraft were also acquired during 1934–35 for ambulance work. The air force was commanded by Colonel John Robinson from May 1935.

In 1957, the first three of several T-33A jet trainers were supplied followed by F-86F fighters in 1960. In 1961, T-28s were acquired for advanced training.

In 1964 following the Somalian invasion of Ethiopia, the country acquired Canberra bombers and air defense radars Britain and the US respectively.

Prior to the Somalian invasion, the Somalis were receiving large quantities of weaponry ground equipment and MiG-17 fighters from the Soviet Union, this prompted the US to supply supersonic F-5A jet fighters to Ethiopia. The presence of the F-5s forced the USSR to also supply MiG-21s to Somalia.

Ethiopian Air Force ranks structure

The Ethiopian Air Force is a well-structured organization, featuring several thousand airmen manning it’s equipment and assets.

The ranking structure of the Ethiopian Air Force is tailored like that of the Royal Air Force which first equipped it with airplanes in the early 90s.

Every year, a recruitment exercise is held for new personnel. Individuals with high school diploma can participate for the enlisted cadre.

Ethiopian Air Force pilots in front of a US donated C-130 Hercules aircraft

Ethiopian Air Force fleet

The Ethiopian Air Force has a mixture of old and new aircrafts in its fleet. Most are sourced secondhand from different sources. The aircrafts are mostly Russian designs.

Ethiopian Air Force aircrafts includes:
Attack: Su-25 Frogfoot, Mil Mi-24 helicopter
Fighter: MiG-21 Fishbed, MiG-23 Flogger, Su-27 Flanker
Trainer: Aermacchi SF-260 , Aero L-39 Albatros, Grob G 120TP

Transport aircraft: Antonov An-12 , Antonov An-24 , Antonov An-26 , De Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo , Lockheed C-130 Hercules , Mil Mi-6 , Mil Mi-8

Ethiopian Air Force pilots received a C-130 from United States

Ethiopian Air Force ranks

The Ethiopian Air Force ranks is divided into two parts which are,

  1. Commissioned Officers
  2. Enlisted (also known as Non-commissioned Officers).

The Commissioned Officers of the Ethiopian Air Force are , they have undergone several leadership course from Ethiopia’s Harar Military Academy, Pilot Training School, as well as from institutions of allied Nations like the United States, Britain etc so as to perform optimally.

While the enlisted men or Non-commissioned officers are personnel of lower cadre. They usually undertake roles such as infantrymen, airbase defence, aircraft armorers, technicians, search and rescue, air traffic controllers, and VIP security escorts.

The ranks for Commissioned Officers for the Ethiopian air force is outlined below.

Lieutenant General
Major General
Brigadier General
Lieutenant Colonel
1st Lieutenant
2nd Lieutenant

The ranks for the Enlisted personnel (Non-commissioned officers) is outlined below.

Private 1st Class
Lance Corporal
Staff Sergeant
Master Sergeant
Sergeant Major
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