American aid recipient Egypt turn to Russia for military hardware

An Egyptian Air Force's Su-35 with serial 9214.

The United States established diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1922, following its independence from protectorate status under the United Kingdom. The United States and Egypt share a strong partnership based on mutual interest in Middle East peace and stability, economic opportunity, and regional security. Promoting a stable, prosperous Egypt, where the government protects the basic rights of its citizens and fulfills the aspirations of the Egyptian people, will continue to be a core objective of U.S. policy.

U.S. assistance to Egypt has long played a central role in Egypt’s economic and military development and in furthering the strategic partnership and regional stability. Since 1980, the United States has provided Egypt with what now totals over $40 billion in the military and $30 billion in economic assistance.

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Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and Mohamed Morsi

Egypt – on July 3, 2013, we witnessed the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically-elected civilian president and the first president since the January 25 revolution. The overthrow of Dr Mohamed Morsi came after just one year of his presidential term in a coup led by his Minister of Defence, General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi. It is timely to compare Morsi’s one year in power with Al-Sisi’s one year in power. The past 12 months have encompassed many unprecedented events, including a presidential campaign by Al-Sisi, who won an election which has been widely viewed as farcical and illegitimate.

Sisi graduated from the Egyptian Military Academy in 1977, then served in the infantry. Like other Egyptian officers of his generation, he never saw combat, but he advanced through the ranks to command a mechanized infantry division and then served as the commander of Egypt’s northern military region. In 2010 he was appointed to the post of director of military intelligence.

Since the military coup orchestrated by General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, Egypt awarded multi-billion dollars of contracts to Russian Federation to procure Russian military hardware. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Egypt ordered 24 Su-35 aircraft for $2 billion in 2018.

Egypt Purchases Russian Military Hardware

Russia has started production of Su-35 fighter jets for Egypt as part of an order for two dozen of the jets.

This is according to TASS, which reported over the weekend that the Gagarin Aircraft Plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur has launched the production of the Su-35s for Russia that were ordered in 2018.

“The timeframe for first batch’s delivery to the Egyptian side has not been set yet, due to restrictions imposed by the novel coronavirus outbreak,” a military-diplomatic source told TASS.

In March 2019 Russian newspaper Kommersant said the contract involves several dozen of the fighters, which will supplement the MiG-29M/M2 fighters Egypt is receiving and help replace obsolete MiG-21s and J-7s.

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Kommersant said deliveries are due to take place from 2020/2021. Egypt’s order was apparently spurred on by the performance of the aircraft over Syria, where it was deployed by the Russian Air Force.

The Su-35 is one of the latest evolutions of the Su-27 ‘Flanker’ and first flew in February 2008, after which it was put in production for the Russian Air Force – service entry was in 2014. Compared to its predecessors, the Su-35 features new avionics including the Irbis phased array radar and more powerful AL-41F1S engines (14 500 kg of thrust) with thrust vectoring control.

Over the last decade, Egypt has taken delivery of large amounts of hardware from Russia. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, this includes Tor-M1 (SA-15), Igla-S (SA-24), S-300VM (Antey-2500/SA-23) and Buk-M2 (SA-17) surface-to-air missile systems, ten Mi-17V-5 helicopters and a Project 1241/Tarantual fast attack craft as well as air-to-air and anti-tank guided missiles. Egypt is also receiving 46 Ka-52K attack helicopters and 50 MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets from Russian manufacturers.

CAATSA Sanctions

The United States could impose sanctions on Egypt and block it from future military sales if it goes ahead with a purchase of Russian warplanes, a U.S. official said.

The United States has over the years provided billions of dollars in economic and military aid to Egypt, a long-time ally whose military operates the F-16 fighter jet.

Cooper said using the Su-35 and other Russian weapons systems could pose a threat to a country’s ability to operate jointly with the militaries of the United States and other NATO countries.

The U.S. has warned Egypt of possible sanctions over Cairo’s decision to proceed with a purchase of Russian warplanes, a new source of friction with a country whose leader has been lauded by President Trump.

Washington could impose sanctions under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which targets purchases of military equipment from Russia.

The Egyptian government could not immediately be reached for comment.

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