Satellite images show a number of the Egyptian jets impacted on the runway and hard standing at Merowe Air Base (also known as Marawi Air Base), which is located roughly 186 miles to the north of Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. The rebel paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) claimed to have taken control of the air base where Egypt had deployed the multi-role fighter jets. Images on April 15 showed armed members of the rebel group standing alongside the aircraft as fighting erupted across the North African nation.
It is believed that Egypt had deployed the MiG-29s to Sudan earlier this month as tensions grew in Sudan amid plans to transition the country to civilian rule. The RSF is currently engaged in fighting Sudanese military units loyal to Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s transitional governing Sovereign Council. Leader of the RSF, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – known as Hemedti – is also the deputy head of the Sovereign Council. With these two leaders sharing power, it had been planned that the RSF would merge with the regular army.
With those plans now in tatters, a video released by the RSF on April 15 showed what it claimed was the capture of Merowe Air Base. While this is a Sudanese Air Force base, it was hosting an unknown number of Egyptian Air Force MiG-29M/M2 jets at the time. The Egyptian Air Force is known to have sent MiG-29s to Merowe for an air defence training exercise, dubbed ‘Nile Eagles 1’, in November 2020, to work alongside Sudanese Air Force assets. Several editions of the Nile Eagles exercise are believed to have taken place since.
Dramatic video footage of a Sudanese Air Force MiG-29 showed the Russian-made jet flying low over Khartoum in a show of force, while smoke billowed from the buildings below. The Sudanese Air Force took delivery of ten single-seat MiG-29SE and two MiG-29UB Fulcrums in 2004, although at least three of the single-seaters are known to have been lost.
Since the conflict erupted, which is thought to have claimed the lives of at least 98 civilians, on April 15, the Sudanese military has launched numerous airstrikes. Eyewitnesses said strikes had been carried out on RSF bases in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city across the Nile, and the Kafouri and Sharg El-Nil districts of adjacent Bahri, putting RSF fighters to flight.
On April 15-16, Sudanese MiG-29SEs were seen flying over Khartoum, as well as sorties carried out by Chinese-made A-5Cs and Russian-built Mi-24P Hind gunships. It had been assumed that the A-5s had been replaced by six Chinese FTC-2000s – which were delivered in 2018 – in the close air support role, but that doesn’t appear to have been the case, judging by video footage released by the Sudanese Air Force. The airstrikes were said to be targeting RSF bases, as well as its fighters who were launching attacks inside Sudan.