Delayed Ethiopian poll likely to be disrupted by ongoing conflict

by Jordan Anderson & Nizar Manek

Ethiopia’s general election, originally scheduled for August 2020 but delayed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, is set for 5 June. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is looking to secure a mandate for his Prosperity Party (PP), formed in November 2019 out of the parties in Ethiopia’s former ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), with the exception of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), with which he went to war in November 2020.

The conditions for holding the polls are worse than in 2020. Despite limited testing, by 20 April the Ministry of Health had recorded a cumulative total of almost 250,000 Covid-19 cases in a country with a population of more than 100 million. Separately, on 23 March Abiy told parliament that the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) was “in a major fight on eight fronts” against armed groups in north and west Ethiopia.

Units of the Ethiopian army patrol the streets of Mekelle city in the Tigray region, northern Ethiopia, on 7 March 2021, after the city was captured in an operation against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Although the Tigray conflict has been widely covered in international media, the widening political gulf between Oromia and Amhara is potentially more destabilising for Ethiopia. (Eduardo Soteras/AFP via Getty Images)

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German frigate successfully intercepts Houthi attack UAVs in Red Sea

by Kate Tringham & Alex Pape

Hessen is pictured departing Wilhelmshaven naval base on 8 February to join the EU's new maritime security mission to protect commercial shipping in the Red Sea. (Bundeswehr/Julia Kelm)

The German Navy's Type 124 Sachsen-class air-defence frigate FGS Hessen (F 221) successfully repelled two one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the Red Sea launched by Yemen-based Ansar Allah (commonly known as the Houthis) militants on 27 February.

Briefing media at a German government press conference on 28 February, German Federal Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson Michael Stempfle confirmed that the UAVs were launched in two separate attacks on the evening of 27 February.

The first UAV was detected by Hessen at 2000 h local time and was successfully intercepted shortly after using the ship's onboard 76 mm gun. The second UAV was detected 20 minutes later and was successfully engaged using the ship's RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) short-range defence system, he said.

“They were detected by the radar system and were at different distances,” he said. “That's why there were two different weapons that were used.”

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General Atomics XQ-67A Off-Board Sensing Station conducts first flight

by Zach Rosenberg

The XQ-67A in flight (location unknown). (GA-ASI)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has flown the XQ-67A unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time, the company announced on 29 February.

“Flight demonstration of this system is a major first step towards showing the ability to produce affordable combat mass,” said Trenton White, Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL's) Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) programme manager, in a statement announcing the flight.

The flight took place on 28 February at GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility, outside Palmdale, California.

It comes a year after the AFRL selected GA-ASI to build the XQ-67A under the OBSS programme, intended to result in a UAV that could fly ahead of manned aircraft and pass data back, effectively extending their ability to detect and track targets.

“OBSS is the first aircraft type built and flown using a common core chassis developed by GA-ASI that promotes commonality across multiple vehicle types,” said Michael Atwood, GA-ASI vice-president of advanced programmes.

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Lockheed Martin delivers first KC-130J for Germany

by Gareth Jennings

The first KC-130J for the Luftwaffe departs the Marietta production facility in the US, bound for the joint Franco-German C-130 squadron in France. (Lockheed Martin)

The first Lockheed Martin KC-130J tanker-transport aircraft for the Luftwaffe was delivered to the joint Franco-German C-130 air-transport squadron at Évreux-Fauville Air Base in northern France on 28 February.

The first of three German KC-130Js departed the company's Marietta production facility in Georgia for the ferry flight to France, where it joined three Luftwaffe C-130J-30, two French Air and Space Force (Armee de l'Air et de l'Espace: AAE) KC-130J, and two AAE C-130J-30 aircraft already delivered. The final two Luftwaffe KC-130Js are to be delivered by the end of 2024, for a final joint fleet of five KC-130J and and five C-130J-30 aircraft.

The C-130 air-transport squadron at Évreux-Fauville Air Base in northern France will have unrestricted exchange of aircraft, aircrews, and maintainers, as well as technical and logistical support based on a common pool of spare parts and a common service support contract. “Ten aircraft, two nations, one association – there has never been anything like this in Europe,” the Bundeswehr has previously said.

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Ethiopia’s general election, originally scheduled for August 2020 but delayed amid the Covid-19 pand...

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