Malian Armed Forces announced on 9 August that it had officially taken possession of L-39C Albatros light combat aircraft, a CASA C-295 transport, Su-25 aircraft and helicopters, in a ceremony held at capital city Bamako’s international airport. Assimi Goita, interim President of the military junta ruling Mali, joined Russian diplomats during the ceremony to induct the Russian aircraft.
In a speech, Defense Minister Sadio Camara hailed Mali’s “win-win partnership with the Russian Federation”, stating that the new deliveries “strengthen our reconnaissance and attack capabilities.” He added that “we are just showing a part of (Russian arms deliveries), the rest of course is being used in operations as these ceremonies unfold.”
Four L-39C were spotted during the ceremony and were armed with two under-wing rocket pods. These along with the Su-25, a lone example of which was present, would drastically improve Mali’s fixed wing aviation capability. Mali currently has three Embraer EMB 314 light attack aircraft. FlightGlobal’s World Air Forces 2022 lists Mali having nine MiG-21 aircraft, however, their operational status is unclear. The C-295 delivery, details of which are unclear, would enhance transport capability.
Mali has grown closer to Russia since the 2020 coup, while drifting away from traditional security partner France. Mali has been acquiring Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters in batches since 2017, with four of each being delivered by 2022. On March 30, 2022, two Mi-24P attack helicopters and radar systems were received from Russia. Between 2007 and 2012, Mali had acquired used helicopters from Bulgaria. The current induction of Mi-24P and Mi-8 helicopters add to this inventory.
The United Nations and France have been deployed in Mali since 2013 to deter Islamic insurgents. France led Operation Barkhane is being replaced with a new international anti-terror task force to help stem the tide of violent extremists ravaging the country. French withdrawal is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. The Mali regime had roped in Russian paramilitaries, including Wagner Group, to support the Mali forces, a move which is said to have contributed to the French withdrawal.
Header Image: Forces Armées Maliennes