Egyptian Air Force has signed a military agreement to buy 50 MiG-35 warplanes from Russia the US’ National Interest reported on Saturday.
The $2 billion deal, the largest in the post-Soviet era, was signed between Cairo and Moscow in April 2015, under which Egypt will receive the warplanes by 2020.
It comes following joint negotiations that took place between the two countries in November 2013 over Egypt’s purchase of 24 MiG-29M fighter jets from Russia.
On March 18, 2019, Russia Secures $2Bln Fighter Jet Contract With Egypt for the supply of 20 Su-35 fighter jets
US senior administration official has warned Egypt against buying a Russian Su-35 multi-role air-defense fighters and air-launched weapons.
According to US senior administration, Washington has already faced the same situation with China, India, and Turkey.
Mutual cooperation between the two countries developed after Al-Sisi was sworn into office on June 2014, particularly at the level of military aid, however, relations strained after a Russian passenger jet crashed over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015.
The resumption of Russian air traffic to the Egyptian capital of Cairo last year played a significant role in mitigating relations between the two countries.
In December 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a visit to Egypt, during which he agreed to build Egypt’s Al-Dabaa nuclear power plant. He also visited the North African country in February 2015 to attend the signing of several deals between Cairo and Moscow.
Egypt has extensively modernized its military capabilities since the coming to power of a new administration in 2013, which overthrew a strongly Western-aligned Islamist government that year.
The overthrow led the U.S. to freeze arms shipments to the country, which in turn was a considerable factor influencing Cairo to turn away from Washington for future arms purchases.
However, a history of extensive and in the view of many excessive restrictions on American arms sales to Egypt was also reportedly at play in forcing Egypt away from American weapons – in particular, jet aircraft. Since abandoning its defense ties to the Soviet Union under President Anwar Sadat in the mid-1970s Egypt has repeatedly sought to acquire high-end air superiority fighters – namely the American F-15 Eagle.
While these aircraft were sold to Saudi Arabia and Israel in large numbers, however, Egypt was restricted to purchasing the cheaper and lighter jets such as the F-16 – ensuring a balance of power which favored the Western Bloc’s more reliable clients. Furthermore, Egypt was the only major operator of the F-16 denied modern AIM-120 air to air missiles – meaning its aircraft would face an overwhelming disadvantage in combat with those of any other U.S. client.
Egypt’s move to upgrade its aerial warfare capabilities began with the acquisition of the S-300V4 surface to air missile system and 45 MiG-29M medium weight multirole fighters. These were accompanied by purchases of complementary shorter ranged air defense platforms and advanced long range air to air missiles such as the R-77 and extended range R-27 variants.
The Su-35 and Mig-35 in Egyptian hands also overturns the regional balance of power the United States has for so long succeeded in maintaining. The fighters are capable of surpassing any other platforms currently deployed in the Middle East or Africa in their air to air combat capabilities, including the advanced Algerian Su-30MKA and Saudi F-15SA, and are also capable of deploying hypersonic R-37M ‘AWACS killer’ missiles.
These platforms retain a 400km engagement range and pose a major threat to support aircraft of Egypt’s potential adversaries such as the American and Saudi Saudi E-3 Sentries or Israeli Eitam AWACS platforms. Ultimately whether Egypt will yield under American pressure remains to be seen, but given its economy’s fragility and heavy reliance on the Western Bloc this remains a considerable possibility.