December 31, 2021

Ethiopia’s War Turns Into a Testing Ground for the Deadliest Drones

Source: The Times

Journalists: Jane Flanagan, Michael Evans

Ethiopia’s civil war has become a testing ground for military drones that has made its people “guinea pigs”, rebel leaders have claimed.Multiple purchases of armed surveillance drones at a fraction of the cost of fighter jets and bombers have provided Ethiopia’s leader, Abiy Ahmed, with a war-winning weapon that has forced the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) into retreat.


Success for the government in Addis Ababa will be studied closely by other small nations needing to arm against internal or external adversaries. It will also boost the export of armed drones by countries that have developed their own technology such as Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.“

"It’s no longer just the big powers such as the US, China, Russia, UK and France producing armed drones,” said Paul Scharre, a former senior Pentagon official who helped develop US policy on drones and is author of the award-winning Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War.


Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the defence programme at the Washington-based Centre for a New American Security, said: “This spectrum of drone capability is like an air force on the cheap for the Ethiopian government forces. They acquired these drones, initially from Iran, then the Chinese ones from the Emiratis and finally the TB2 from Turkey, which allowed them to spot rebel ground troops and carry out precision strikes.“

"The TB2 can stick around for about 24 hours, so they could find rebel forces who had no way of defending themselves.” The Tigrayans, she added, were trying to acquire an effective counter to the drones. “But air defence systems are more sophisticated and expensive.”

Read the full story and more from The Times.


  • Stacie Pettyjohn

    Senior Fellow and Director, Defense Program

    Stacie Pettyjohn is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Her areas of expertise include defense strategy, post...

  • Paul Scharre

    Executive Vice President and Director of Studies

    Paul Scharre is the Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at CNAS. He is the award-winning author of Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence...