The rapid growth of Egypt’s arsenal is also raising concerns in Israel. Israel experts fear Egypt is hungry to restore its former glory as a dominant regional power.
The absolute dominance of the Israeli Air Force in the Middle East is undisputed, thanks to its super-efficient training and intelligence activities of the Mossad and other agencies. A nation that has always challenged Israel’s air dominance, Egypt. Egypt is going in the opposite direction in its arms procurement policy, buying more weapons from countries like Russia and France instead of the US as before; and the latest, is the addition of the Rafale fighters.
Egypt’s latest deal, buying 30 more Rafale fighters from France, estimated at about $5 billion. This acquisition has increased the number of Rafale in the Egyptian Air Force to 54 aircraft (including 24 purchased in 2015). The Rafale is a 4++ generation fighter that offers long-range air combat capabilities, which have been limited to American weapons. Another important addition to Egypt’s air power was the purchase of 50 MiG-29Ms from Russia in 2015. Russia also supplied Egypt with 30 Su-35 air superiority fighters in 2018.
The last major arms deal between the US and Egypt was in 2010, for 20 F-16C fighters, but without long-range weapons. In 2013, after a military coup, arms sales between the US and Egypt ceased. Egypt turned to other countries to strengthen its armed forces. Such developments worry US policymakers. For decades, the US has tried to maintain the strength of the Israeli Army by providing its neighbors with less modern weapons.
The rapid growth of Egypt’s arsenal is also raising concerns in Israel. Israel experts fear Egypt is hungry to restore its former glory as a dominant regional power. Egypt is gradually developing its air force at a rapid pace. It is said to be contemplating increasing the number of Rafales to 100; with the addition of more advanced Rafale F4 versions. This would make Egypt’s Rafale fleet second only to the French Air Force.
According to experts, the features of the F4 version will challenge Israel’s air superiority in the region. Moreover, the combination of Egyptian fighters, including those of Russia, the United States and France, is another nightmare for the Israeli Air Force, in terms of the unpredictability of weapons systems.
In terms of air power, Egypt ranks 10th in the world, with about 590 fighters. F-16s are still the mainstay of the Egyptian air force, with a number of 240. Other types include 65 French Mirages, 40 MiG-21s, 30 Chinese J-7s; 24 Su-35s and 46 MiG-29M multirole fighters. Israel is ranked 19th. Currently, the Israeli Air Force has about 255 fighters, all of which are of better quality than Egypt’s as well as the entire Middle East region.
As an important US ally, Israel uses only US-made aircraft, including 225 F-16s, 83 F-15s and 27 F-35s. Israel plans to buy 23 more F-35s by 2024, bringing the total to 50. Although fewer in number than Egypt, Israeli fighters are more modern and powerful, and are flown by pilots with far superior qualifications and experience.
Israel is also a leader in the development of UAVs and precision-guided weapons. Unlike Egypt’s F-16s, Israel’s F-16s have air-to-air guided missiles as modern as those of the US Air Force. More importantly, the Israeli F-35Is are considered the most advanced in the world, giving the IDF a huge advantage, able to quickly defeat the Egyptian air invasion, thanks to their stealth and its weapon quality.
In a simulated air battle, experts estimate that Israeli warplanes will quickly prevail over the Egyptian air forces. Although mainly using F-16, but Egypt’s F-16 is much weaker than Israel’s, because its weapon has a range of less than 35 km. Furthermore, electronic warfare capabilities give the Israeli F-16 a much higher survivability. But will this change when Egypt acquires advanced Rafale and Sukhoi fighters, bringing many advantages to the Egyptian Air Force? Although it will take time for Egypt to have such a large number of planes.
The weak point of the Egyptian Air Force is the quality of pilots, which has been questioned many times in different battlefields. Despite the reinforcement of powerful Rafale and Su-35 fighters, to replace the No. 1 position of the Israeli Air Force, Egypt will still need more time.