Ethiopian National Defense Force relies greatly on long-range projectiles to hold far away threats at risk.
The East African hegemon continues to strengthen it’s artillery and rocket holdings, as well as other strategic weapons in it’s inventory to better handle regional crises when the time comes.
Looking to greatly expand on its military offensive capabilities and give it a decisive edge over its long-time enemy of Eritrea, and to establish a deterrent to Sudan and Egypt, Ethiopia embarked on an ambitious re-equipment programme in the 2010s that sought to alter the military balance in the region in Ethiopia’s favour.
At the centre of this re-armament initiative was the acquisition of short-range ballistic missiles and long-range (guided) rockets capabilities, these two were never fielded in Ethiopia before.
Ethiopia acquired extended-range Chinese-made half a dozen PHL-03 300 mm MRLS, A-200 guided rocket artillery (GRA) systems and M-20 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) each. Such weapons have a range of between 150km (93 miles) and 300km (186 miles).
Considering the close military relationship between Ethiopia and China, it is little surprising that Ethiopia looked to China for the acquisition of such capabilities. In addition to being one of the few countries willing to supply such technology to Ethiopia, China also produces two systems that combine SRBMs and guided rockets into one modular system.
The M20 SRBM is currently the most modern ballistic missile to have entered service in the African continent. It carries a 400kg HE warhead to a range of at least 280km, making it ideally suited for targeting enemy bases and troop concentrations. Incorporating not only inertial, but also BeiDou satellite guidance, the M20 also boasts a Circular Error Probable (CEP) estimated at some 30 metres.
The A200 is one of the latest Chinese artillery rocket systems, thee launcher vehicle carries 2 pods with four 300 mm rockets each. Each rocket is 7.26 m long and weights 750 kg. The rockets have a maximum range of 200 km. Minimum range is 50 km. Rockets have inertial guidance with satellite navigation update. CEP is around 30 meters. So these rockets are very accurate even at maximum range
Multiple rocket launchers are capable of laying down extremely lethal barrages in quick succession, while larger rockets can strike targets deeper behind the frontline. The ten-rocket A200 has a range of seventy-five miles, while twelve-rocket AR2 (export model of the Chinese military Type 03 system) has a range of eighty-one miles. The rockets can carry regular high-explosive warheads or highly lethal fuel-air explosive or cluster bomblets and also come in precision-strike variants guided by Beidou satellite navigation.
The A200 launcher can alternately mount two M20 ballistic missiles, an export model of China’s mobile DF-12 SRBM. The M20 officially boasts a range of up to 174 miles, and can deploy countermeasures and maneuver to avoid interception by air defenses, and a combination of satellite and inertial guidance results in an average accuracy of 30 meters.
Tigray’s war offered a rare glimpse of a non-state actor using captured short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and long-range guided rockets to attack targets in Ethiopia and the capital of Eritrea.
When Tigray forces launched their assault on the ENDF’s northern command in November 2020, they quickly seized control over the entire Ethiopia’s ballistic missile and guided rocket force.
On November 13, 2020, a Tigrayan M20 system launched strikes on airbases in Gondar and the Amharan capital of Bahir Dar further to the south, 180 miles from Mekelle. A missile damaged the terminal in Gondar, while another narrowly missed the airport in Bahir Dar. Two more strikes were launched in November. Satellite photos show one of the missiles cratered the concrete apron at Bahir Dar airport.
Likewise, in retaliation for Eritrean intervention in the war, the TDF also struck Eritrea’s capital of Asmara, and the city of Massawa three times in the month of November, with salvos of four and six rockets fired Nov. 27 and 28 respectively.
These events shows the immense capabilities of Ethiopia’s rocket forces, particularly how they can accurately and effectively engage targets miles away.
As regional tension persists, and to further build in these capabilities, the Ethiopian government acquired dozens of Chinese SH-15 (PCL-181) artillery.
The Ethiopian Army continues to reinforce it’s capabilities to be better prepared for the next conflict, likely with Egypt or Sudan.
The PCL-181 is a Chinese truck-mounted,155 mm self-propelled howitzer used by the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force.
This artillery system is highly mobile and can self-deploy over long distances, and is capable of direct and indirect firing. Maximum range of fire could be up to 53 km with a rocket-assisted V-LAP projectile.
Tensions between Khartoum, Cairo, and Addis Ababa over a disputed border region continues to be a source of potential conflict.
The three countries have also been at loggerheads over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), in a regional dispute that involves Egypt.
Ethiopia which was gearing up for a major confrontation with Egypt -Africa’s major military power over the GERD dam project, now has to contend with Sudan’s assault on its territory.
In the most recent escalation, Ethiopian Air Force (EAF) in July last year scrambled multiple fighter jets in response to an incursion by Sudanese ground troops in the border region.