Mali commissions new aircraft into Air Force service

During a ceremony at Base Aérienne 101 (BA101, Air Base 101) Bamako-Sénou/Modibo Keita International Airport on August 9, various new aircraft were formally inducted into Force Aérienne de la République du Mali (Malian Republic Air Force) service.

They comprised at least four (but probably six) L-39C Albatros light attack aircraft, two Mi-24P Hind attack helicopters and single examples of the Airbus C295M tactical transport, Mi-8MT Hip utility helicopter and Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft. All of these were sourced from Russia, apart from the C295M. This makes it one of the largest acquisitions by Mali for many years.

The President of the Transition, Head of State, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Colonel Assimi Goïta, officially handed over the keys of these aircraft to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Brigadier General de Alou Boi Diarra, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Dr Choguel Kokalla Maïga and other dignitaries, including the Russian ambassador to Mali, in the Presidential Pavilion.

Mali L-39C
Newly delivered Mali Republic Air Force L-39C Albatros TZ-11C at the hand-over ceremony at Bamako on August 9, 2022. DIRPA Mali

The new production C295M, serial number TZ-12T, arrived at Bamako on May 31 and is the second of two that were on order. The first aircraft, TZ-11T, had been delivered in December 2016. An order for the second was announced on December 2, 2020, following which it was noted test flying from the factory at Seville-Span Pablo Airport, Spain, in June 2021.

However, delivery was delayed by US sanctions as a result of two coups in Mali, along with allegations that the Malian Army was recruiting child soldiers. Mali took delivery of the two Mi-24Ps (serials TZ-06H and TZ-07H) on March 30 this year, having previously acquired six Mi-24Ds second-hand from Bulgaria in three batches of two in 2007, 2009 and 2012. It is unconfirmed how many of these earlier deliveries remain airworthy.

The L-39Cs had not previously been reported and appear to be newly arrived. Serials TZ-10C, TZ-11C, TZ-12C, TZ-13C and TZ-14C, plus one other have been reported, suggesting six may have been delivered in total. Similarly, the arrival of the Su-25, serial number TZ-20C, had not previously been reported and there may also have been a second example, possibly TZ-21C.

The Mi-8MT, TZ-99H, is additional to the four Mi-171Sh helicopters ordered from Russia in 2020 under a $61m contract that included training and weapons. The Mi-171Shs arrived in the country on September 30, 2021, following which they were officially commissioned into service on November 26 during a ceremony at BA101.

The new arrivals are part of Mali’s efforts over the last few years to strengthen the Air Force and rebuild it into a well-equipped and trained force capable of combating increasing terrorist threats. They will improve mobility and provide the capability for better casualty evacuation and humanitarian relief operations.