By Bijan Razzaghi
In recent years Egypt has made several high profile defense contracts with Russia purchasing both land and air systems including helicopters, jets and battle tanks. This has been a major shift as Egypt has primarily purchased US made equipment since the late 1970s. Among those include the F-16, AH-64 Apache and M-1A2 Abrams platforms. The most recent Egyptian arms acquisitions in the last 3 years have been the Mig-35 fighter KA-52 attack helicopter. In addition, Egypt has shown interest in purchasing the T-14 Armata and domestically assembling the T-90S.
The exact reason for the shift is unknown but it is likely to diversify Egypt’s fleet and make it dependent on two or three suppliers instead of a single supplier. This would mean if relations fail with one client they could continue with another and the supply of arms would not slow down. The capabilities that these Russian platforms add mirror those of their American counterparts mentioned above and operate parallel to each other separate units.
The Mig-35 purchased in 2015 the fulfills Egypt tactical fighter requirement operating alongside the F-16 and Dassault Rafale. The Mig-35 uses the same basic airframe and design of the Mig-29 but adds 3D thrust vectoring engines and a Zhuk-AE AESA radar. This gives the aircraft exceptional maneuverability and the ability to engage and track ground targets. The Mig-35Ms only limitation is range with a combat radius of 540 nautical miles. Egypt ordered a total of 46 aircraft.
The KA-52 Alligator attack helicopter which started to be delivered in 2017 offers a complement to the already operational AH-64 Apache. The KA-52 included a Phazotron FH-01 MMW Millimeter Wave Radar that can track both air and ground threats. The KA-52 maneuverability allows it to perform air combat against other helicopters and the aircraft can deploy the IGLA to air missile. Egypt has ordered 46 KA-52s.
Egypt has announced its intention to purchase 400-500 T-90S tanks as well as the T-14 Armata. The T-90Ss are to be assembled in Egypt while the terms T-14 deal remains unclear. These new tanks will likely complement the M-1A2 Abrams tanks already in service as well as replace the older M-60 Patton and T-54 tanks.
These new deals have significantly built up the countries armed forces yet the unique combination of American, French and Russian weapons might present operational challenges. It is possible Egypt will take interest in the Su-57 as well.