With more Rafale fighters, how strong is the Egyptian Air Force?

After equipping Russian MiG-29M and Su-35, Egypt continued to buy 30 more French Rafale fighters for 150 million USD / unit; Thus, the Egyptian Air Force has the most modern fighters of both the US, Russia and France.

Egypt’s Ministry of Defense has announced that it will buy 30 additional Rafale fighters from France, under a deal worth 3.75 billion euros ($ 4.5 billion). The contract is financed by the French government, through a loan that will be repaid within 10 years.

This announcement comes after years of negotiations between the governments of France and Egypt on the possibility of a continuation of an agreement signed in February 2015; Accordingly, Egypt ordered 24 Rafales fighters as part of a larger package, including fighters for the Egyptian Navy and air force.

Egyptian Air Force Rafale flying in formation
Egyptian Air Force Rafale flying in formation

Negotiations have been dragged on, with a deal to buy 12 new Rafales slated for 2017 but delayed, as Egypt apparently considers cheaper alternatives, due to the announcement by the French side. about the Rafale fighter’s price is said to be too rigid.

The new agreement will increase the total size of the Egyptian Rafale fleet to 54 aircraft, making Egypt the largest foreign operator of the Rafale fighter jet.  The price of a Rafale, which will average $ 150 million a piece on average.

Before that, a controversial contract to buy Rafale was signed between France and India to buy 36 Rafales, priced at about 217 million USD / unit; 45% higher than Egypt’s payout. Opposition in India denounces corruption, in the deal to buy the Rafale of the incumbent Indian government. But Indian rafale’s are most advanced compare to the egyptian one.

The contract for the purchase of Rafale fighters marks the fourth-largest fighter purchase agreement for the Egyptian Air Force (after the first purchase of Rafale, Russian MiG-29M and Su-35 fighters), since the Army launched a coup to overthrow the pro-American Islamic government in 2013.

Egypt’s successive purchase of French and Russian fighters also shows the end of three decades, the Egyptian army completely relied solely on the downgraded American line of F-16 fighters. The lack of AIM-120 missiles made the Egyptian F-16 fleet among the least capable in the world – reducing the engagement range of its fighters to little under 70km using the older, slower and less accurate AIM-7P Sparrow

Currently, in addition to the 200 F-16Cs purchased from the United States, the Egyptian Air Force also has 46 Russian MiG-29M medium fighters (purchased in 2013), 24 previously equipped Rafales, and 26 combat aircraft. Su-35 heavyweight battle (purchased in 2018); making Egypt the strongest air force in the region.

MiG-29M of Egyptian air force
MiG-29M of Egyptian air force

With the possession of the most modern fighters of both the US, Russia and France, it is likely that the MiG-29M and Su-35 will serve as air superiority; the number of Rafales that will perform the mission as required (both air defense and ground attack) and the number of F-16s that will specialize in ground attack.

Rafale is prized for its ability to use the Scalp ground attack cruise missile, has a range of up to 1,000km and high accuracy. 2/3 of the Rafales purchased by the Egyptian Air Force have a two-seater configuration, in which the second pilot specializes in the use of weapons; These are versions that are inclined towards ground attack.

Since the mid-1970s, when Egypt ended its defense partnership with the Soviet Union and turned to pro-West; however, Egypt was denied to access heavy fighters such as the F-15 Eagle and the F-14 Tomcat by the USA. The reason is that Egypt’s position is only a “low level” ally.

At the same time to keep Israel’s “gut ally”, having an absolute advantage in the region, Egypt is also prohibited from buying advanced weapons for its F-16 squadron, mainly air-to-air missiles like AIM-120.

F-16 fighter aircraft of Egyptian air force
F-16 fighter aircraft of Egyptian air force

Thus, for more than 30 years, Egypt’s air-to-air capabilities were very outdated, unable to withstand opponents like Israel; which could easily neutralize outdated AIM-7 long-range missiles, equipped on the Egyptian F-16, with electronic warfare systems.

The Egyptian Air Force marked the return with the purchase of Russian MiG-29M. MiG-29M uses 4+ generation aircraft technology, which may give tough competition to the F-15C of rival Israel. Although the speed is slightly slower and lower, the MiG-29M is more maneuverable; specially equipped with air-to-air missiles with a range of up to 130km and advanced infrared sensors.

Next, Egypt signed a contract to buy 26 Su-35 fighters from Russia, this is a modern fighter of the 4th generation, using many technologies of 5th generation fighter. In the analysis, with the exception of Israel’s F-35s, none of the Israeli Air Force’s fighters are currently a competitor to the Su-35.

Egypt’s new Rafale deal is interpreted as having a political “breath”, as Egypt is under fierce criticism from the West and faces threats of US sanctions for buying advanced weapons. advancement of Russia.

The Rafale procurement is also a move closer to the West, while also supporting France’s struggling fighter program and a weak European economy; Maybe the action of buying Rafale is seen as a way to offset this. 

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