Tragedy struck in Mali as the nation’s only Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft crashed in the Gao region on September 9. The pilot, however, managed to eject and is reportedly safe. This Su-25 was supplied by Russia just last year.
This incident followed closely on the heels of a terrorist attack on Gao airport the day before, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 15 military personnel.
Visual evidence from the crash site indicates that the Malian Air Force lost its Su-25 with registration TZ-25C, which had been delivered in January 2023. It’s reported that forces from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) fired upon the jet, contributing to its crash. The adverse weather conditions on that day also likely played a role.
The chief of the Malian air force attributed the Su-25 crash to “technical difficulties” and adverse weather but noted that the crew had safely ejected. The Malian Air Force had conducted airstrikes on positions held by the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) in Anefis, Kidal Cercle, Mali.
In the midst of this incident, the government in Bamako has urged both rebel groups to return to the negotiating table in an effort to prevent a resurgence of conflict. The CMA is one of the signatories of the 2015 peace accord.
In an intriguing twist, an unconfirmed photo emerged of a MANPADS (Man-Portable Air-Defense System) used by the rebel group, revealing a rare USA-made FIM-43 ‘Redeye’ MANPADS. It is quite plausible that MANPADS were smuggled into Mali from either Libya or Chad.
This Su-25 combat aircraft had been delivered from Russia in January of this year. It’s important to note that a similar incident occurred last year when the Malian Air Force lost one of its newly acquired Russian-made Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot close air support aircraft (with registration TZ-20C) near Goa airport. That incident resulted in the tragic loss of the Russian pilot, an army personnel on the ground, and injuries to 10 others, including two civilians and eight military personnel.
Russia had delivered two Su-25 aircraft (TZ-20C and TZ-25C) to Mali; one in August last year, and one this January. Both aircraft have now apparently crashed. In the previous year, Russia had supplied Mali with several aircraft, including four L-39C Albatros light attack aircraft, a single Su-25 FrogFoot close air support aircraft, an Mi-24P attack helicopter, and an Mi-8 transport helicopter. In January of this year, Russia had provided five L-39C Albatros light attack aircraft, an Mi-35M attack helicopter, and another Su-25 FrogFoot close air support aircraft.
Mali has been grappling with an Islamist insurgency for the past decade, following the takeover of northern Mali by Islamists in 2012. While control over Malian territory was regained after France’s intervention in 2013, conflicts and attacks have persisted in the years since. Unfortunately, 2022 has already become one of the deadliest years in the ongoing conflict.
Remarkably, Russia continues to strengthen its relationship with Mali, even amid its complex war with Ukraine. This has led experts to question whether a disruption in Moscow’s defense supply chain is impending. However, it appears that more Russian military equipment continues to find its way to Africa.
These new arrivals are expected to help counter the violent extremist threat that has plagued Mali, especially as French Barkhane forces and other European military units withdraw from the nation at the government’s request.
On 30th March 2022, the Malian armed forces (FAMa) received two Mi-24P Hind-F attack helicopters and a sole P-18 early warning radar system from Russia. Moreover, on Saturday, April 22nd, 2023, a Malian Air Force (Armée de l’Air du Mali) Mi-24D helicopter (serial TZ-01H) crashed in a residential neighborhood of Bamako, Mali’s capital, after returning from what the Malian army stated was an “operational mission.”
The crash resulted in the death of three military personnel on board, and six persons on the ground were injured.
According to local reports, the helicopter crashed in a densely populated area of the city, causing significant damage to nearby homes and vehicles. Eyewitnesses reported hearing a loud explosion followed by the helicopter plummeting to the ground.
The cause of the crash is not yet known, and an investigation is underway to determine the circumstances leading up to the accident. However, some reports suggest that technical issues may have been the cause.
Also, in 2019 a Malian Air Force Chinese-made Harbin Z-9 utility helicopter crashed on January 19 after suffering a technical malfunction. at Kati.