In 1958 the Ethiopian navy became an autonomous branch of
the armed forces, operating as a coast guard within the
territorial waters off Eritrea. Until 1974 a small
contingent of retired British naval personnel served as
advisers and training supervisors. In 1974 Addis Ababa and
Oslo signed an agreement whereby Norway organized and
trained a modest maritime force. Starting in 1978, Soviet
advisers were attached to the Ethiopian navy.
In early 1991, Ethiopia's 3,500-member navy remained modest
and had seen little combat. Its inventory included two
frigates, eight missile craft, six torpedo craft, six patrol
boats, two amphibious craft, and two support/training craft.
Ethiopia's principal naval bases were at Mitsiwa and Aseb.
The base at Aseb included a ship-repair facility. In the
past, the navy had cooperated with elements of the Soviet
fleet operating in the Red Sea. Soviet naval vessels also
made frequent calls at Ethiopian ports to resupply and
refit. Moreover, the Soviet Union maintained naval
facilities in the Dahlak Islands off the coast of Eritrea.
The Soviet Union had an anchorage and stationed a naval
infantry detachment there; it reportedly also operated
intelligence facilities there. After they were expelled from
Somalia in 1977 for siding with Ethiopia, Soviet personnel
moved a dry dock they had operated at Berbera in Somalia to
Aseb and later positioned it off the coast in the Dahlak
Islands. At one time, they also had several Il-38 maritime
reconnaissance aircraft stationed at Asmera, but by 1989
these aircraft had been moved to Aden because the EPLF had
destroyed one of the Soviet aircraft in a daring raid.
Data as of 1991