Italian media reported that Egypt is close to finalizing a $3 billion deal with Italy to buy 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets.
The sale of fighter jets is part of a wider arms deal, valued at between $10-12bn, involving warships, combat and training aircraft, and a military satellite. If completed, it would be the largest arms deal in Egypt’s recent history and one of the largest arms deals by Italy since World War Two. Why does Egypt want to acquire Eurofighter Typhoons while it already has the Rafale and is about to receive the Su-35s?
Eurofighter Typhoon is an air superiority aircraft, modern in every sense, difficult to destroy and specifically designed to do so in a hostile environment with a relatively high expectation of its survival rate. While the SU-35 Flanker shares many similarities, it is known to be a durable, long-range, and rugged aircraft. It is especially more useful in long-range missions such as performing deep attack missions while also contributing to offensive air superiority missions, mainly to aid in combing.
So, if the Flankers are long-range and the Typhoon is controlling the air, what is the role of the Rafale? The Rafale is more than a multi-role combat aircraft. While the other two are designed to control high altitude, the Rafale is designed to have high survivability no matter where you go, and is more suitable for controlling and supporting the battlefield. If it breaks through an enemy air asset at low altitude to perform a strike, you want some of the modern, relatively small, agile, and versatile fighters to be able to intercept it. It is actually a very clever combination of capabilities.
There are two other factors worth noting: First, the operating costs. Relatively large, high-speed, and powerful aircraft with powerful engines cost a lot to stay in the air and strains air superiority aircraft on low-altitude battlefields, thus shortening their life. The smaller Rafale will be cheaper to maintain and operate and will be able to carry out more sorties.
Egypt is building a modern and diverse air force. Its large fleet of F-16 Block 52 is almost useless. They don’t have any BVR missiles and the F-16s cannot use them without US surveillance. Ironically, the old Mig-29M2s are the most valuable asset of the Egyptian Air Force. They can use them without permission, and the Russians sell them modern missiles. But given the current Russo-Ukrainian war context, Egypt’s arms supply from Russia will be limited.
What the Egyptian Air Force is aiming for is diversifying its arsenal to ensure it is not dependent on a single country. The deal with Italy is another step in Egypt’s efforts to diversify its arsenal. The Eurofighter is a really good jet, much better than the badly degraded Egyptian F-16s.
On the other hand, you must pay attention to the traditional enemies of Egypt, especially Israel. Egypt learned some harsh lessons in those short wars when they not only want to make sure that they have the equipment, but also to reduce their dependence on a single arms supplier. Not surprisingly, Egypt is developing chain relationships with all the advanced combat aircraft manufacturers in neighboring Europe.
In addition to the Typhoon aircraft, the wider deal is expected to include four European multi-purpose frigates, manufactured by Italian ship company Fincantieri, 20 patrol ships, 20 M-346 warplanes, and an observation satellite. Egypt is on its way to making its biggest acquisition of weapons technology since the end of World War II.