The second deal of the French Rafale fighter jets raised questions about Egypt’s military motives and the extent of its need for this type of armament, and what will it add to its huge arsenal that also includes Russian and American fighters, or does the deal have political motives that overlook the crises and obstacles of financing and loans needed to complete it?
Last Tuesday, the Egyptian army announced the signing of a contract to import 30 French Rafale aircraft, to be financed through a loan of a minimum period of 10 years.
The French fighter is distinguished – according to the statement – “with high combat capabilities, including the ability to carry out long-range missions, as well as possessing an advanced armament system, high maneuverability, and multiple weapon systems.”
While the Egyptian military statement did not clarify the value of the deal, the investigative website Disclose revealed that it amounts to 3.75 billion euros, and includes equipment worth another 200 million euros.
The new deal, which is expected to be delivered between 2024 and 2026, will increase the number of Rafale fighters that carry the Egyptian flag to 54, after a similar deal in 2015 that included 24 fighters, placing Egypt in second place as the largest Rafale fleet in the world after France, according to press reports.
On the French side, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, said that the contract – signed by Egypt to purchase 30 other Rafale combat aircraft produced by the French aviation company, Dassault – will provide 7,000 job opportunities in France over 3 years.
The deal was criticized for its military viability in light of the huge arsenal that Egypt had accumulated in recent years, through major arms deals with countries, including France, the United States, Russia, Germany and Italy, in contrast to the loans that are already exhausting the already troubled Egyptian economy.
Others believed that the deal would reflect on national security interests and support the capabilities of the armed forces, in light of crises in regional situations, chief among them the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam crisis, and warnings of an armed conflict with the approaching second filling of the dam lake. 2
For his part, the advisor at the Nasser Military Academy, retired Major General Adel Al-Omda, confirmed that the deal represents an addition and a new striking force, indicating that it is a message addressed professionally and forcefully to those concerned that Egypt has its freedom to take what it deems appropriate in protecting its national security.
The mayor linked – in televised statements – between the deal and Sisi’s warnings in late March, when the latter emphasized that “infringing on his country’s right to water is a red line, and no one is far from its capabilities,” statements that for the first time carried the tone of an official threat directed at Ethiopia.
The military expert added that the Rafale deal comes in the context of diversifying the sources of armament, so that Egypt does not come under pressure from anyone, and is based in dealing with others on full combat capabilities and capabilities and an active political and diplomatic vision, in light of the great changes in the region.
Regarding the importance of the deal, he said that it is represented in the high capabilities of the Rafale, and the implementation of “long-term tasks according to the assurances of the Ministry of Defense”, not only in the regional environment, but in Egypt’s vital field and all the various strategic parties.
The military expert, retired Brigadier General Samir Ragheb al-Kheit, picked up himself, stressing that the Rafale planes “provide Egypt with military deterrence in the file of the Renaissance Dam,” noting that his country possesses before this deal, forces that would provide it with superiority in case it resorted to the military option to solve the dam crisis.
In a press statement, Ragheb said, “Egypt will not receive the new planes during the next two months, during which time it may witness military action if Egypt decides to do so.”
While observers doubt that Egypt will direct a military strike on the Ethiopian dam and its ability to do so, Ragheb stressed that “Rafale planes are able to carry out the attack accurately and destroy the dam if Egypt resorted to this,” indicating that they can travel enough distances to carry out the attack on the dam without resorting to air bases. Sudanese.
In turn, Safwat al-Zayyat, a military expert and retired brigadier general in the Egyptian army, went on to say that the United States of America worked decades ago to monopolize Egyptian armaments and prevent the country from possessing any weapons capable of operating outside the state’s borders, for reasons represented in securing the Israeli depth and limiting the Egyptian role.
In statements to Al-Jazeera Net, Al-Zayat explained that Egypt has sensed the dangers and crises facing national security recently that require dealing with targets far from the country’s borders, including the Renaissance Dam.
According to the military expert, his country has recently witnessed an accelerated work to diversify the sources of weapons, such as the Rafale and the Russian “Sukhoi-35” fighters.
He pointed out that Sukhoi is better than the Rafale, and is classified as heavy fighters, and technically more feasible in long-range work, and this is an important point, but its problem is in the very few numbers, while the Rafale is described as medium fighters.
He added that Egypt is in a difficult situation because of what the United States imposed on it regarding armaments and ensuring air superiority in favor of Israel, blaming the successive regimes in his country not to take advantage of the opportunities to go to other areas in the armament market to obtain long-range systems.
# Egypt is strengthening its air fleet with 30 new French Rafale fighters financed by borrowing pic.twitter.com/wOC5R1lRh6
– Al Jazeera Egypt (@AJAEgypt) May 4, 2021
The Egyptian Rafale Dilemma
Al-Zayyat added that even in the previous Rafale deal, Washington placed a ban on some types of ammunition, such as remote launch weapons, such as the SCALP EG missile designed to destroy fortifications, command and communication centers, air bases, weapons and ammunition stores, bridges and ports for the enemy outside the range of defenses. Air Force One, and it operates with a self-driving system, according to press reports.
Yesterday, Wednesday, the French magazine Le Point stated that all the new aircraft that will be delivered to Egypt will be “F3-R” (F3-R), which is the most advanced in service currently, but will soon be replaced by the “F4” model. ) In France in 2024 or 2025, and therefore Egypt will not have the most advanced model.
The French magazine explained that the aircraft will not be equipped with the “Meteor” (air-to-air) missile, which is a crucial component of the “F3-R” model, with a range of more than 150 km, which enables it to destroy most of the aircraft in the Middle East and Africa before it It is within the firing range, with the exception of the American F-35 aircraft that was equipped with Israel.
The magazine’s report indicated that the entry of the Meteor missile into Egypt will send a strong message to its neighbors, but if we assume that the French government wants to export this weapon, it will need great efforts to obtain the green light from the United States, which through its arms export regulations can prevent any deal. It includes an American component, which applies to the Meteor missile, as well as the Scalp missile, the main weapon in the Rafale, because it enables it to hit ground targets in an accurate and effective manner from a safe distance.
In light of these military capabilities of the Rafale, military expert Safwat al-Zayyat believed that there are alternatives in the Eastern Bloc that are less expensive, better, more far-reaching and more armed than the French fighter.
Al-Zayat said that the decision to arm in Egypt is like any decision in a ruling system that has an individual nature that is not subject to studies and depends on relationships and other matters.
Friendship and commissions
Regarding whether the Rafale deal was driven by political motives that were not met in the last deal, Abdullah Al-Ashaal, a professor of international law and a former assistant foreign minister, explained that the regime is looking for support for its friendship with France and the satisfaction of the army commanders.
Al-Ashaal told Al-Jazeera Net that “the focus on military spending in Egypt – both economically and militarily – has become incomprehensible, as the system does not explain and considers secrecy important. Therefore, the regime’s logic is to claim the nation’s interest as long as it is its guardian.”
The former diplomat confirmed that there are considerations for the deal, but it has no scientific explanation, indicating that it may be linked to “commissions, rapprochement with France, and the strengthening of the army with all its weapons.”
A note Al-Ashaal referred to in the recent Egyptian arms deals is Israel’s blessing of it, pointing out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on trial for facilitating Egypt obtaining naval vessels from Germany.
In turn, Egyptian journalist Yahya Ghanem believed that the Egyptian leadership seems to have another vision for using this weapon to serve regional purposes and projects, and not necessarily the direct national interest of Egypt represented in the Nile River.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera Net, Ghanem explained that some major powers are seeking to divert oil transport from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea away from Iran’s range of fire, while the Egyptian leadership aspires to play a regional role in this regard.
While stressing the importance and positivity of strengthening the air force and other weapons, Ghanem saw in the Rafale fighter plan intended for Egypt a weakness, which is the unfair conditions and precautions that are linked to the fact that it is effectively demilitarized and capable of carrying out the tasks that Egypt needs, such as targeting the Renaissance Dam.
In light of this, Ghanem believed that “this deal will not yield a real military benefit to Egypt, but will join its sisters from the previous Rafale planes,” according to his description.
He also considered it “an attempt to satisfy France, the political ally of the Egyptian regime,” noting that the French Defense Minister bragged to the public opinion in her country that the deal would save 7,000 job opportunities for workers in the manufacturing companies.
He added that the aim of armament is a part of it in any country, not necessarily actual use, but rather to be used to deter opponents and enemies.
With regard to the financing and loan crisis necessary to complete the deal, he said, “We have not yet found any attempt to use the accumulated and expensive weapon that burdens the Egyptian people with taxes and debts, and we have not used the minimum level to deter the adversary, and force them to refrain from serious harm to Egypt’s interests.”
He added that the most prominent example is the political leadership’s reluctance to use weapons to deter Ethiopia to stop harming Egypt’s lifeline, which is the Nile.