According to a number of Egyptian sources, the African country is reportedly considering license production of a number of advanced Belarusian weapons system domestically.
These purchases will be accompanied by technology transfers to the Egyptian defence sector, with six weapons systems in particular under consideration.
Although Egypt was a longstanding defence partner of the United States from the 1970s, after it ended its partnership with the Soviet Bloc and put its most advanced Soviet-supplied arms at the West’s disposal for study, it has cultivated close defence ties with Russia since 2013.
That year saw the removal of a Western aligned Islamist government in Cairo, which was closely followed by orders for MiG-29M fighter jets, S-300V4 and BuK-M2 air defence systems and Ka-52 attack helicopters among other weapons systems.
With Belarus and Russia’s defence sectors being highly interdependent, a result of them having previously been one country in the Soviet era and maintained close ties since, Belarus represented a natural defence partner for Egypt with weapons highly compatible with those purchased from Russia.
Perhaps the most notable Belarusian system being considered is the Buk-MB3K medium range air defence system, which was made available for export and has many similar capabilities and a comparable role to the BuK-M2 purchased from Russia. The system stresses high mobility and has a formidable sensor suite which can detect fighter sized targets 130km away – with its missiles able to engage at up to 70km.
The Buk-MB3K represents a cheaper alternative for medium range air defence to the Russian BuK-M3 ‘Viking’ or the S-350, but licence production of large numbers could make Egypt’s air defence network far denser and potentially allow it to phase out older Cold War era systems such as the American MIM-23 and Soviet S-75.
Alongside the Buk-MB3K, Egypt is also reportedly considering licence production of the Polonez long range rocket artillery system which has a formidable range of 300 km. The rockets have both internal and satellite guidance, and each mobile launch vehicle carries eight 300mm rounds. They are also reportedly capable of deploying ballistic missiles, and could thus allow Egypt to replace its Scud-B and Hwasong-5 arsenals.
The weapons system has been in service since 2016, and proved effective in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War in Azerbaijan’s hands. Other weapons systems under consideration include the EM UAS unmanned balloon for ground control, the Remote-Controlled Weapons Station ‘Adunok’ which can carry a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, unspecified drones, and a trailer artillery fire management system for rocket artillery. Acquiring these systems for the country’s ground forces would complement Cairo’s planned acquisition of 500 Russian T-90MS battle tanks to form its most capable armoured units.
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