Since the overthrow of the Western-centric Islamist government in 2013, Egypt has moved to work more closely with Russia on defense. At that time, the Egyptian Air Force had about 200 U.S. F-16C fighter jets. But Cairo purchased Russian MiG-29M, although at that time they did not have any fundamentally new capabilities compared to American combat vehicles.
Military Watch experts were versed in the reasons for the Egyptians’ purchase of Russian MiG-29M.
Since the mid-1970s, when Egypt ended its defense partnership with the Soviet Union and turned toward NATO, the country has nevertheless been denied access to modern fighter jets such as the F-15 Eagle and F-14 Tomcat. The “privileged” partners of the United States, such as Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, on the contrary, received these combat aircraft, which put Egypt at a distinct disadvantage to its neighbors. Over time, Cairo managed to acquire F-16 fighter jets, but the Americans severely reduced the supply of ammunition to them. Therefore, Egypt decided to buy Russian MiG-29M.
At the time of Egypt’s acquisition of the MiG-29, the aircraft was the oldest and least perfect Russian fighter, but it represented a major upgrade compared to the even more obsolete F-16C, given the circumstances in which American aircraft were operated.
It is important to note that Russia did not restrict Cairo’s use of supplied combat vehicles and did not cut sales of necessary components. Moreover, the Russians gave the Egyptians access to long-range R-27ER and R-77 air-to-air missiles, which for the first time in decades provided Egypt with modern capabilities to fight in the air.
This was vital to maintain some parity with the Israeli F-16 and F-15. In addition, the MiG-29M purchased by Egypt was more technically advanced than the MiG-29s in neighbouring Syria, Libya and Sudan – they had a larger fuel supply, more powerful engines and modern electronic stuffing, as well as electronic warfare systems.
The purchase of the MiG-29M has largely laid the groundwork for Cairo’s future purchases of modern Russian combat aircraft, primarily the MiG-35 generation MiG-35 fighter jet, as well as the more advanced Su-35.