In April, Poland and Bulgaria transferred its MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets to Ukraine. Slovakia transferred its S-300 air defense missile system to Ukraine and is currently contemplating giving Kyiv its 12 MiG-29s. As with its S-300 transfer, Bratislava wants guarantees of alternative protection for its airspace before seriously considering doing so. Patriot systems have already been deployed in place of the S-300 by Slovakia’s NATO allies. Those same allies could also deploy fighter jets until Slovakia eventually acquires replacements.
The central European country recognizes that it has an opportunity to simultaneously offload its older Russian military hardware and help its neighbor resist Russian aggression. Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger correctly pointed out that keeping its Soviet-built military hardware would be unsustainable in the long run, especially since the Russian supply chain has been crippled by sanctions and other factors since Feb. 24.
In a recent article for War on the Rocks, Dr. Jack Watling, a research fellow for land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute, suggested that Egypt’s advanced fleet of almost 50 MiG-29M/M2 Fulcrums could be transferred to Ukraine.
While a transfer of Egyptian Fulcrums to Ukraine is not, so far as is publicly known, being negotiated (and might well be a sensitive topic in Cairo given the close political and defense ties it forged with Russia in the past decade), it could, nevertheless, be beneficial to Cairo in more ways than one.
Such a deal could well be arranged if Egypt is willing to offload its Russian weapons systems, all of which it procured less than ten years ago. However, rather than additional F-16s, Cairo will more likely want to finally acquire F-15EX, a procurement that would abolish its primary reasons for turning to Russia for advanced fighter jets in the first place.
Egypt first showed interest in MiG-29s in 2013, after that July’s infamous coup, as part of its efforts to lessen its heavy dependency on the U.S. by diversifying its sources of military hardware and even preparing itself to withstand U.S. sanctions or an arms embargo.
Supply chain disrupption
Sources close to Rostec told Global Defense Corp that a key challenge in the coming months would be the supply of foreign-origin electronics.
Russian Yak-130, Mi-17 helicopters, marine propulsion and missiles parts come from Ukrainian defense industries. Russia shot itself on foot when it destroyed those industrial bases in Ukraine by invading Ukraine.
Russia’s NIIP and Sukhoi design bureau depend on foreign semiconductors to produce Flankers and Fulcrum fighter jets electronics. Due to EU and U.S. sanctions, Russia’s design bureau will not be able to source any spare parts from South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
Inevitably, Egypt will not be able to maintain its fleet of MiG-29M2 and Su-35 fighter jets.
Now, as the Slovakian prime minister pointed out, having such advanced Russian hardware could prove more trouble than its worth. Cairo may find it considerably more difficult to maintain these advanced jets now that the Russian supply chain will likely be severely disrupted for years to come. Offloading them now and helping Ukraine in the process could earn Cairo considerable goodwill in Washington, possibly including a fast-tracked delivery of F-15EX.
Less than five years ago, Egypt was willing to run the risk of incurring U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) by procuring Su-35s because it desperately needed a fighter with long-range air-to-air missiles.
As a 2021 Washington Institute report noted, it was for these reasons Egypt viewed “the Su-35 deal as a bitter pill that it has opted to swallow to remedy its aerial inferiority.”
Nevertheless, the report added, Cairo recognized the severe challenges it would face integrating the Su-35 into its predominantly Western-supplied air force.
Add to these severe shortcomings the disrupted Russian supply chain and maintenance issues caused by the Ukraine war mentioned above and Cairo’s evident disappointment with the Su-35, which lacks actively electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and it appears clear that these systems are far more trouble than they are worth for the North African country. And now that Egypt finally has the option of procuring F-15s, it will no longer have any real need for them.
In March, General Frank McKenzie, the then-commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), said the U.S. would finally supply Egypt with F-15s after refusing to do so for over 40 years.
“In the case of Egypt, I think we have good news in that we are going to provide them with F-15s,” McKenzie revealed, adding that it had been “a long, hard slog” to finalize the sale.
While McKenzie did not provide any further details, Janes reasonably speculated that Cairo would likely receive “the latest Advanced Eagle variant that has previously been sold to Saudi Arabia as the F-15SA, to Qatar as the F-15QA, and to the U.S. Air Force (USAF) as the F-15EX.”
Perhaps even more useful for Kyiv than Egypt’s sizable fleet of modern MiG-29s would be its advanced S-300VM batteries, also procured in the last decade, which are more advanced than the S-300s currently fielded by the Ukrainian armed forces. Cairo might be willing to transfer those if promised a U.S. replacement – perhaps additional PAC-3 Patriot missiles or even the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD).
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