CAIRO: In what some analysts expect to be a major weapons procurement policy shift, Egypt is considering a Russian offer to sell the advanced MiG-29 fighter jet.
Chief of Staff General Hussam Sueweilam told The Daily Star Egypt that Egypt s decision to purchase the MiG-29 fighter planes from Russia should not be considered a deviation from standard Egyptian policy, adding that Egypt has fighter planes from different countries. He stated that the Egyptian Air Force has French Mirage planes and US-made F-16s. Suweilam added that the reason behind Egypt s intent to purchase the MiG-29s was that the Egyptian air force needed newer planes.
We must update our planes, Suweilam said [at present] we have MiG-21s which are old planes made in the fifties . The MiG-29 is an interception fighter plane suitable for defense of air space. The American equivalent is the F-15 and the MiGs are cheaper. Suweilam added.
But Dr. Mohammed Kadry Saeed, an expert on military studies at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, believes the reported arms deals under discussion between Egypt and Russia are a statement directed at the US.
“The statements are intended for the US, probably as a response to the pressure the US places on Egypt through the aid it provides. The American Congress is always debating whether to renew the aid, asking whether Egypt is on our side. So this is a message to the American Congress, Saeed said.
News coming out of Russia regarding elevated military cooperation are a new development, he said; adding that it is the first time that arms have been declared top of the agenda for a visit to Russia.
He also said that Egypt has traditionally dealt solely with the United States in arms – as a major part of American aid to Egypt – while arms deals with Russia usually entail replacements and spare part acquisitions.
Russian industry sources said President Hosni Mubarak has been briefed on the offer of advanced aircraft to Cairo.
The sources said Russia s defense ministry and industry have discussed the sale of the MiG-29SMT and MiG-AT air trainer to the Egyptian Air Force.