Going on Su-35 deal: Will Egypt risk her relations with the USA?

French intelligence website, Africa Intelligence, said earlier this month that Egyptian pilots were seen in Russia training to fly Russian Su-35 fighters, despite American pressure and warnings that they could impose sanctions on Cairo if they completed this deal. And go ahead with the deal.

In March of 2019, the Russian newspaper, Kommersant, published the news of the Egyptian request to buy twenty Su-35 fighters for two billion dollars, a deal that angered the United States and prompted it to issue several warnings to Cairo, imposing sanctions upon it once completed the agreement, following the (CAATSA) law -The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The first of these warnings was in April 2019, during Sisi’s visit to Washington, where he received a threat from former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during a testimony he gave before the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, to impose sanctions on Egypt if the deal went ahead.

The threat was repeated by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs, Clark Cooper, at the Dubai Airshow, who added that the completion of the deal would expose Egypt to US sanctions, including stopping its purchases of American weapons. Another written threat issued by the US Secretary of Defense and State to the Egyptian Minister of Defense, General Mohamed Zaki, in an official letter in November 2019 contained the same warnings.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on Turkey and China for their arms deals with Moscow. After Beijing purchased the same type of fighters Egypt had contracted with, Washington froze Chinese military funds and banking transactions and suspended visas for military officials and others. Countries of the world buy Sukhoi products. Turkey imposed sanctions on it in December of 2020, including the Turkish Defense Industries Administration, its president, Ismail Demir, and three other individuals associated with the Turkish Defense Industries Administration, for its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system, and Ankara was excluded from the fighter production project. F-35 for the same reason.

Egyptian military sources had spoken to (Egyptwatsh) on condition of anonymity. They said that the main reason for this deal dates back to 2008, when the United States of America contracted to supply fifth-generation fighters (F-35) to Israel. Then, Washington refused to conclude a similar deal with Cairo. The source adds that the Egyptian request has been repeated several times, including what happened between Sisi and Trump in 2018. Sisi, at the time, received a promise from Trump to implement the proposal, which did not occur later due to the ban imposed by the Pentagon on selling this type of aircraft to any country in the Middle East Other than Israel, which currently owns 13 fighters and contracts to supply 50 others. A similar request was rejected by the UAE government, even after signing a peace agreement between it and Israel.

The source added that American pressure on Cairo over this deal prompted Egypt to postpone it, especially after former President Donald Trump lost the presidential election battle. Cairo depended on his strong relationship with Sisi to pass the deal without severe penalties. Still, with the advent of Joe Biden, it preferred Cairo to postpone receiving the agreement until the political atmosphere in the United States changed. He added that Egypt could accept the deal undeclared and not use it at present for fear of US sanctions. What the source says is consistent with the leaks published in July of 2020, which included pictures of five Sukhoi-35 planes painted by the Egyptian Air Force. However, reports published at the beginning of this year stated that the Egyptian deal might go to Iran to avoid US sanctions, except that Two new planes in Egyptian camouflage were seen this month, carrying serial numbers 9221 and 9237, during a video clip of Russian officials’ visit to Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft factory, which indicated the continuation of the manufacturing process for Egypt.

The strange thing about Egypt’s continuation of the deal is not just the sanctions. According to many military analysts, the Russian planes did not show remarkable superiority during the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war. Instead, there were reports that the Ukrainian army had shot down two fighters of this type. Similar deals were cancelled and replaced, such as Indonesia’s deal, in which warriors announced its intention to buy 11 Sukhoi-35 fighters before announcing that it was renouncing that intention and choosing between the French Rafale and the American “F-15”.

Su-35 is a multi-role fighter jet that possesses air-to-air missiles to guarantee its a qualitative superiority in the setting of air combat, in addition to short, medium, and long-range air-to-ground missiles and anti-ship missiles, all with high hit accuracy, an internal machine gun containing 150 rounds of 30 mm calibre (Gryazev-Shipunov GST-30-1), and a powerful radar that can detect ground targets at a distance of 200 km, can engage eight air targets simultaneously and can attack two ground targets at the same time.