Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 17:08 GMT
Analysis: Arms pour in for border war
Both sides are building up their armouries
By regional expert Patrick Gilkes
Both planes have ground attack capability, and they represent a significant step up from the MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighters left over from the previous military dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, overthrown in 1991.
Both sides have also been buying helicopters. Eritrea has obtained several attack helicopters from Italy, to add to the four given to it by Ethiopia in 1995 at the time of its conflict with Yemen over the Hanish Islands, and never returned.
Since the conflict broke out last May, both sides have also been building up their armouries, buying arms and ammunition widely.
One recent consignment of 91 containers, stopped by the Belgian authorities in Antwerp last year, held quantities of reconditioned engines that could be used for T-55 tanks, of which the Eritreans inherited hundreds in 1991. Other dual purpose equipment in the consignment included 40 Unimog lorries.
Ethiopia has been buying from China, which completed a major ammunition contract last year and is now fulfilling a repeat order.
Bulgaria has supplied over 100 T-55 tanks, and more material is on order.
Agreement was reached but then delayed because of Eritrean complaints - Israel wants to remain friendly to both countries. The deal has now been postponed.
In the meantime, Ethiopia has acquired its Sukhoi fighters, and a team of at least 100 Russian technicians, part of whose job is get some of the older MiGs back into the air. France has supplied communications equipment.
Funding has been difficult for both sides as most of the new equipment has had to be paid for cash in advance, though there have been reports that Ethiopia may have bartered coffee with China.
A recent meeting in London demanded pledges of £500 per person to support the war. The latest money raising effort is the raffling of 300 houses in Asmara, with a $500 registration fee for taking part.
Ethiopia has increased its military budget, and it, too, is raising money from Ethiopians abroad, and using "voluntary" donations locally to provide for food and medical supplies for the troops.
It has been estimated that each side is spending a million dollars a day. But this is likely to be a considerable under-estimate.
The aircraft bought in December reportedly cost Eritrea $150m, and Ethiopia $160m, but overall costs of the deals, which included pilots and technicians, must have been rather larger, even though the planes were second hand.