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Egypt Index


United States Army M-2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles maneuver in the Egyptian desert during Exercise Bright Star, 1987.
Courtesy United States Department of Defense

Between 1955 and 1975, the Egyptian armed forces depended heavily on the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union provided Egypt with grants and loans to pay for equipment, training, and the services of large numbers of military advisers. The Soviets initially supplied outmoded equipment from surplus stocks to help Egypt replenish its forces after the 1956 War, but in the early 1960s, the Soviet Union began furnishing up-to-date MiG-21 fighter aircraft, SA-2 SAMs, and T-54 tanks. The Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) supplied large numbers of trainers and technicians, and Egypt sent many of its officers to Soviet military institutions to learn new organizational and strategic doctrines.

Egypt's defeat in the June 1967 War deepened the Soviet Union's involvement in Egypt's military (see War of Attrition and the October 1973 War , this ch.). By the early 1970s, the number of Soviet personnel in Egypt had risen to nearly 20,000. They participated in operational decisions and served at the battalion and sometimes even company levels.

Soviet advisers' patronizing attitudes, Moscow's slow response to requests for more sophisticated equipment, and Cairo's desire for more freedom in preparing for a new conflict were considered by observers as some of the reasons for Sadat's decision to expel most Soviet military personnel in July 1972. The Soviets continued to provide equipment, spare parts, and replacements for equipment lost during the October 1973 War, but Sadat was becoming increasingly disenchanted with Egypt's reliance on Soviet weaponry. In March 1976, Sadat asked the People's Assembly to abrogate the 1971 Soviet-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation.

After Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty in 1979, the United States strove to increase deliveries of armaments to Egypt and to provide the country with American military advisers and training. By 1989 this aid averaged US$1.3 billion a year and had totaled more than US$12 billion. Egypt was the second largest recipient of United States military aid after Israel, which received US$1.8 billion annually. The United States supplied a number of major weapons systems, including F-4 and F-16 fighter aircraft, C-130 transports, E-2c Hawkeye electronic surveillance aircraft, M60A3 tanks, M-113A2 APCs, I-Hawk antiaircraft missile batteries, and improved TOW antitank missiles. The United States military assistance program for FY 1990 included initial funding for M1A1 tank coproduction, attack helicopters, and equipment to enhance command, control, and communications systems. Under the concurrent military education and training program of US$1.7 million for FY 1990, 174 Egyptian military personnel would receive training.

The United States stationed 1,200 military personnel in Egypt as of mid-1989. The presence of a large number of United States advisers in Egypt was a source of some political friction. The United States planned gradually to reduce the number in conjunction with the long-term Egyptian goal of self-sufficiency.

Starting in 1981, the United States and Egypt had held joint military exercises every other year under the name of Operation Bright Star. The two countries conducted the largest of these maneuvers near the Suez Canal in 1987 with 9,000 ground, air, and sea personnel from each country. In alternate years, the two countries also held combined air and sea exercises.

In 1981 Egypt agreed to allow the United States Rapid Development Force (currently called the United States Central Command) to use Egypt's base at Ras Banas on the Red Sea in the event that a friendly Arab nation needed help in repelling an armed attack. Preparations were made to upgrade the base by installing fuel-storage tanks, lengthening runways, and building barracks and docks. In 1984, however, the project was shelved because of disagreements over who would manage construction and because the United States Congress insisted that Egypt provide a formal guarantee of access to the base. Mounting distrust among the Egyptian public over close strategic ties with the United States was an underlying factor in abandoning the project. Egypt nonetheless indicated that the United States would still have access to the base if help were needed by a friendly Arab government.

Egypt was indebted to the United States for about US$4.5 billion, incurred at high interest rates in the late 1970s and early 1980s, for the purchase of military equipment. Beginning in 1984, the United States provided all of its military assistance in grant form. The interest payments on the earlier debt amounted to as much as US$600 million in a single year. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait helped Egypt maintain its initial payments, and in 1989 Egypt was negotiating a rescheduling of the debt at lower rates with the help of private banks (see Debt and Restructuring , ch. 3).

Although as of early 1990 the United States continued to be Egypt's main supplier of military equipment, Egypt's policy of diversifying its sources of weaponry led it to enter into cooperative military relations with a number of other countries. Egypt acquired much of its modern aircraft from France, in some cases assembling them in Egypt. Egypt was engaged in a number of coproduction projects with Britain as well and assembled the Tucano primary trainer in cooperation with Brazil. Egypt acquired Chinese versions of Soviet-designed aircraft and submarines. Although an insufficient supply of replacement parts of the large arsenal of outdated Soviet equipment continued to present a problem, Egypt entered into a new understanding with the Soviet Union in 1986 to permit resumption of a modest flow of parts. Moscow also agreed to relax the terms of repayment of Cairo's military debt to the Soviet Union--estimated to be between US$5 billion to US$7 billion--over twenty-five years without interest. According to ACDA, the value of arms transfers to Egypt between 1983 and 1987 amounted to about US$7.8 billion, of which US$3.4 billion came from the United States, US$1.6 billion from France, US$550 million from China, US$340 million from the Soviet Union, US$270 million from Italy, US$200 million from Britain, US$60 million from West Germany, and the remaining US$1.4 billion from unidentified sources.

Data as of December 1990

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