Egozi: Fighter Aircraft to Egypt

fighter aircraft

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By Arie Egozi

As the US is pulling out of the Middle East, more countries in the region turn to Russia for advanced arms. Recently, Washington signaled to Cairo that it will have to act if Egypt buys advanced Sukhoi SU-35 fighter aircraft from Russia.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the United States has threatened to crack down on Egypt if it decides to exercise its decision and purchase Russian-made fighter aircraft.

According to the report, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Asper warned that if Egypt completes the purchase of Sukhoi Su-35s from Moscow, it would significantly harm future security deals with the US.

The letter of warning was sent to Cairo as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shuigu visited Egypt to strengthen security ties between the countries. Egypt seeks to strengthen its air force with more than 20 Russian Sukhoi aircraft. The value of the deal signed with Moscow earlier this year is $ 2 billion. 

Israeli sources say that Egypt is encouraged by the soft hand shown by Washington after Turkey had decided to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system. And by the lack of real sanctions by the US.

After threatening to impose sanctions on Turkey, Trump finally avoided such a step and only canceled the sale of the F-35 to Turkey.

Turkey has already asked Moscow for information about the fastest delivery dates of the Russian-made SU-57 fighter aircraft.

Egypt has applied to the US several times to purchase F-35s, pleading with the administration to meet Trump’s promise to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah a-Sisi in 2018 regarding the purchase of 20 F-35. The US administration has refused to approve the deal, as the Pentagon banned the sale of the aircraft to Middle Eastern countries, other than Israel. This led to the deal to purchase the Russian advanced fighter aircraft.

Israel, without any doubt, is behind the American refusal to sell F-35 to Middle Eastern countries,.Israel’s aerial superiority remains a key component of its military qualitative edge in the region. Israel’s airpower is central to its image and deterrent ability: it protects the country’s airspace, provides the first and multi-arena response to both immediate and more distant threats, enables retaliation and retribution missions for attacks on Israel, and plays a central role in managing military operations on various fronts. 

According to Shimon Arad, a senior researcher in the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Israel’s aerial superiority has been eroded in recent years, due to a combination of two force buildup processes in Arab states – the improvement of their air defense systems and the massive acquisition of advanced fighter planes. “For Israel to maintain aerial freedom of action in the next decade, it must have exclusive regional access to fifth-generation fighter planes, such as the F-35 “

Russia and China are developing fifth-generation fighter planes (SU-57 and J-20, respectively), and Russia has even deployed four SU-57 aircraft to Syria to test them against some Western-made detection systems, but these aircraft are still being developed and tested and lack some of the advantages of the American F-35. 

According to the Israeli researcher, the states now seeking to acquire fifth-generation fighter aircraft – the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia – will likely prefer the F-35, because acquiring Russian and/or Chinese aircraft will deny them one of the F-35’s main advantages, namely, its ability to operate in an integrative way with the existing Western fighter aircraft at their disposal, made in the United States and Europe.

Arie Egozi, iHLS Editor-in-Chief