A Lockheed Hercules of the Ethiopian Air Force has been destroyed in an accident near Gijet, Ethiopia. Unconfirmed reports suggest the aircraft was downed by the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) during the armed conflict known as the Tigray War that started in November 2020 between Ethiopia and the Tigray Region.
The C-130E Hercules – serial 1564 (c/n 382-3822), belonging to 15 Squadron at Debre Zeit Air Base, a part of Harar Meda Airport in Bishoftu – was carrying troops and ammunition to an unknown destination when it was shot down by rebel forces.
The tactical transport crashed near the town of Gijet in the Saharti Samre district of the nation’s Tigray region – killing all on board. The number of personnel aboard the aircraft at the time has yet to be confirmed.
The aircraft was a Hercules, formerly operated by Ethiopian Airlines as ET-AJK, was seen in an all-white color scheme at Addis Ababa – Bole International Airport in 2006 without any serial number.
The TPLF is a paramilitary rebel group that is fighting against the Ethiopian government. In recent years, tensions between the nationalist group and the Ethiopian government have grown exponentially, leading Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to launch a military offensive against the TPLF in the Tigray region last November.
The growing tensions and subsequent conflict led to the removal of TPLF-affiliated Debretsion Gebremichael as the chief executive of the Tigray region, who was replaced by government-backed politician, Mulu Nega, on November 13, 2020. Nega was subsequently succeeded by Abraham Balay on May 6, 2021.
On April 20, the TPLF claimed to have shot down an Ethiopian Air Force-operated Mil Mi-35 (NATO reporting name: Hind-E/F), which was operating near Abiy Addi in the Tigray province. All three crew members on board the attack helicopter were killed in the incident. Despite this claim, the Ethiopian government has yet to confirm that the rotorcraft was lost during combat with rebel forces.
AirForces Intelligence data states that – prior to this incident – the Ethiopian Air Force operated just one former US Air Force (USAF) C-130E, which was delivered to the African air arm in July 2014.
In USAF service, the platform operated as serial 62-1858 and had clocked 22,739 flight hours before being transferred to the Ethiopian Air Force.
In Ethiopian service, this aircraft supplemented two C-130Bs, which entered operational service in 1997, and a pair of Lockheed L-100-30 Hercules, which joined the air force’s ranks in 2007.
One of the two C-130Bs was reported to have crashed in August 2013, while the second L-100-30 has been withdrawn from active service. This leaves just two of the tactical transports (a C-130B and L-100-30) operational with 15 Squadron at Debre Zeit.