Russia expands Mali’s airpower; delivers Su-24, L-39C aircraft, and Mi-35 helicopter

With the Russo-Ukraine war still ongoing, Russia continues to fulfil its international commitments, particularly in Africa, where it enjoys extensive patronage.

Earlier this week, the Malian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation announced that it had taken delivery of combat aircraft and would soon proceed to induct them.

The Malian military (Forces Armées Maliennes) announced on August 9 that it had officially taken possession of five L-39C Albatros light attack aircraft, and a single Su-25 FrogFoot close air support aircraft on the tarmac of Bamako international airport and an additional Mil Mi-35 attack helicopter.

The L-39Cs are armed with two under-wing rocket pods and appear to sport the same livery as those of the Russian aerospace forces, the Malian roundels having replaced the Russian markings on the vertical stabiliser and the wings.

The Russian Air Force received more than 2,000 L-39C Albatross, at least a hundred in service today.

The L-39C and Su-25 brings new strike capabilities to the Malian Air Force, usually served by three Brazilian-built Embraer EMB 314 trainer and light attack aircraft.

The most capable aerial strike aircraft of the Malian Air Force is nine antiquated Soviet-era MiG-21 Fishbeds, and their operational status is questionable at best.

The new arrivals will help stem the tide of violent extremists ravaging the country as French Barkhane forces and other European militaries egress from Mali on the behest of the government.

Operation Barkhane would be replaced by ” an international alliance, with all our partners, strictly limited to the fight against terrorism,” President Macron had said.

France temporarily suspended joint operations between French and Malian troops on 3 June in favor of a new force structure in the region will see French special forces numbering about several hundred working with other European countries in the Takuba Task Force and the Malian and Nigerian armies.

Russia is sustaining it’s support for Mali, and this recent delivery follows a pattern which started few years ago.

In 2017, Russia delivered four Mi-17s to Mali, to bolster its fight against insurgents linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Another batch of four Mi-35 attack helicopters was previously delivered; two were delivered in September 2017, a third was delivered in 2018, and the fourth was on 13 January.

The four brings the total number of the Mi-35s in Mali to twelve. Mali previously acquired at least seven Mi-24D helicopters second-hand from Bulgaria between 2007 to 2012.

On 30th March the Malian armed forces (FAMa) received two Mi-24P Hind-F attack helicopters and a sole P-18 early warning radar system from Russia.

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