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Egypt-Air Force

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As of 1989, the Egyptian air force had more than 500 combat aircraft and 30,000 personnel, of which 10,000 were conscripts. Its front-rank fighters consisted of sixty-seven multimission F-16 A/Cs and thirty-three F-4Es from the United States, as well as sixteen Mirage 2000s from France. A large inventory of older MiG aircraft (some of which were Chinese versions assembled in Egypt) backed up the more modern fighters. The air force had fitted many of the MiGs with advanced Western electronics, including radars, jamming equipment, and Sidewinder and Matra air-to-air missiles. The Air Defense Force exercised operational control of about 135 MiG interceptors, although their aircraft and personnel remained part of the air force. Egypt also planned to exchange crude oil for fifty Pucara light ground-attack fighters from Argentina. The air force operated seventy-two combat helicopters and a number of electronic-monitoring, maritime-patrol, reconnaissance, and earlywarning aircraft. Some of these aircraft were capable of detecting low-flying targets at great distances (see table 14, Appendix).

When the Soviet Union became Egypt's principal arms supplier in the 1950s, it also played a preeminent role in advising and training the Egyptian air force. Much of the Soviet influence on the air force's structure and organization still prevailed in the 1980s, although training and tactics were affected by the changeover to Western equipment and the advanced training provided by the United States and other Western countries. Flying units were organized into air brigades that were headquartered at a single base. Brigades officially consisted of three squadrons that each had sixteen to twenty aircraft. Many brigades, however, had only two squadrons. With its headquarters at Heliopolis near Cairo, the air force had about seventeen principal air bases out of a total of forty major installations, as well as reserve and auxiliary bases.

After the June 1967 War and again after the October 1973 War, Egypt had to rebuild totally its air force. Only a few hours after the June 1967 War began, Israel had virtually wiped out the Egyptian air force. The government later tried and imprisoned the commander of the air force and a few other officers and purged many other senior officers. The combat efficiency of the air force, which had dropped almost to nil as a consequence of the war and its aftermath, was restored by renewed deliveries from the Soviet Union and intensified Soviet-led training of pilots and crews.

When Egypt initiated the October 1973 War, the air force was much better prepared for its mission. Egypt's air reconnaissance along the Suez Canal and its air strikes against Israeli strong points provided essential support to the ground forces that were crossing the canal. The air force then shifted to Israeli targets in Sinai and engaged in frequent dogfights over Suez and Port Said. Despite the courage and competence of the pilots, Egypt's air force suffered the loss of more than 200 aircraft in eighteen days of combat. Egypt and Syria together lost an estimated twelve aircraft for every aircraft lost by Israel.

When the war ended, Sadat repeatedly pressed the Soviets to replace Egypt's losses with more advanced aircraft that could rival the American aircraft being flown by the Israelis. Angered by Soviet delays, Sadat ordered Mirage 5 aircraft from France and, later on, F-4E fighters from the United States. Deliveries of the latter began in mid-1979. In addition, two batches of more advanced F-16s were delivered between 1986 and 1989. Delivery of a third batch, which would bring the total number of F-16s in operational units to 120, was to begin in 1991. As of 1990, Egypt was negotiating a fourth batch of forty-six aircraft. Egypt originally planned to purchase forty Mirage 2000s from France, but as of late 1989 no decision had been reached on acquiring the remaining aircraft. With the cooperation of Chinese and Western manufacturers, Egypt developed a major domestic industry that assembled aircraft and produced parts (see Defense Industry , this ch.).

Data as of December 1990

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