U.S. congress moves against Egypt over Russian Su-35 fighters

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

The US Congress is moving against Egypt’s attempts to acquire Russian Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft, despite Washington’s silence for months regarding the significant developments in Cairo’s relations with Moscow.

Russia’s Top War website, which focuses on defense affairs, reported on July 23 that the first batch of Su-35 fighters took off from the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aviation Plant and headed to the European side of Russia, from where they will be delivered to Egypt.

Reports suggest that Egypt is expecting delivery of the Su-35 multi-role fighters soon.

The report read, “Photos of the first five Su-35 fighters built for the Egyptian Air Force appeared on the Web, which made a stopover at Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport during a flight to the European part of Russia. As can be seen from the photographs, there are no identification marks on the planes, but the tail numbers on the keels are marked from 9210 to 9214.”

On March 18, 2019, the Egyptian Air Force inked a US$2 billion deal to buy 24 Russian-made Su-35 fighter jets, including related equipment, according to Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS).

Cairo’s acquisition of these aircraft is expected to provoke harsh reactions in Congress. It may even prompt the Trump administration to implement the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and impose sanctions on the Egyptian regime.

A diplomatic source confirmed to Al Jazeera Networks that Cairo responded to the US accusations by explaining that the Sukhoi aircraft deal with Moscow was made before the adoption of the CAATSA.

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According to Charles Dunn, a former official at the Middle East Institute, “Egypt’s acquisition of Sukhoi bombers is part of its distinguished efforts to diversify its weapons sources and modernise its army, in addition to establishing closer ties with Russia over the past few years.” He told Al Jazeera Net that despite the threats made by the US Secretaries of State and Defence to impose sanctions, they may refrain from actually taking such a step.

Major-General Nasr Salem, the former head of the Egyptian army’s reconnaissance department and professor of strategic studies at the Nasser Higher Military Academy, told Al-Monitor that the Egyptian acquisition of the Su-35 fighters (NATO: Flanker-E), along with MiG-29Ms, Rafale fighters and F-16 Falcons, will ensure air control so as to protect Egyptian interests.

Moreover, a military expert and Associate Professor at the Near East South Asia Centre for Security Studies, said that there is no need for Cairo to acquire these bombers. “Combat aircraft, whether Russian, American or European, will not help Egypt deal with its security challenges,” insisted David Des Roches

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