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Suspected collapse of Su-35 deal sees US agree Egyptian F-15 order

18th March 2022 - 10:14 GMT | by Tim Martin in Belfast

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A Boeing F-15EX undergoes assembly. (Photo: Boeing)

Egypt looks set to acquire F-15 Advanced Eagle fighter jets as the Su-35 may be out of the picture.

The US has revealed it will sell Boeing F-15 Advanced Eagle fighter jets to Egypt, in a move thought to follow Cairo cancelling a Su-35 order from Russia.

‘In the case of Egypt, I think we have good news in that we are going to provide them with F-15s, which was a long, hard slog,’ said Gen Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of US Central Command, during a 15 March Senate hearing.

‘That’s the basic criticism of our ability to provide weapons to our friends and partners, it takes too long to get them,' he added.

The US State Department declined to comment on the potential sale when asked by Shephard.

Egypt had previously committed to an order, reportedly valued at $2 billion, for 26 Su-35 fighter jets which entered production in May 2020, according to the Russian state-run news agency TASS.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reports had emerged of Su-35 export customers including Egypt axing orders for the aircraft, on account of economic sanctions imposed on Moscow, largely targeting oil companies and military technologies.

Following additional defence-related sanctions from the US, Russia faces the prospect of being unable to manufacture any new weapons systems and uncertainty hangs over how it will deliver on a wide variety of export contracts while it wages war in Ukraine and deals with a catastrophic economic crisis that has seen the value of the rouble collapse.

Joseph Siegle, director of research at the US-based African Center for Strategic Studies, pointed out that the F-15 sale would tally with Egypt's 'long-standing ties with the US as a primary military ally'. It also conforms with Egypt’s military diversification strategy that it has adopted over the last decade.

However, he added, in some respects the latest development is surprising given recent history with Egyptian-US procurement. Statistics from SIPRI highlight that US defence exports to Egypt plummeted by 70% between 2012 and 2021 as Washington distanced itself from the regime of Abdel el-Sisi, who seized power in a 2013 coup.

US geopolitical priorities may have shifted but Siegle said: 'Egypt, because of its close ties to both Washington and Moscow, and its strategic position, will continue to engage with those two [countries] within limits as to keep its options open.'

Egypt may have cancelled an order for Su-35 fighter aircraft. (Photo: TASS)

Although the latest SIPRI data shows that Russia accounted for 41% of Egyptian arms imports from 2017 to 2021, Siegle pointed out that Cairo voted to condemn the invasion of Ukraine in the UN General Assembly on 2 March. In this respect, Egypt stands out from many other Middle Eastern countries.

Egypt already operates F-16C/D jets and ordered an additional 30 Rafale aircraft from Dassault in November 2021 that will see it eventually operate 54 of the type to replace a Mirage 2000 fleet.

In line with procedure, the F-15 Advanced Eagle order will first have to be approved by the US State Department with any such announcement likely to detail aircraft numbers, weapons and subsystems under consideration and contract costs.

‘While the F-15ID would incorporate many of the latest advancements and produceability [sic] improvements of the F-15EX, the exact configuration is still to be determined,’ a Boeing spokesperson said in a statement. ‘Because this is part of the Foreign Military Sale process, any further information would need to be provided by the US Air Force.’

The F-15EX has been designed with 12 air-to-air weapon stations and a single store capacity for hypersonic-category weapons up to 22ft (6.7m) in length and weighing 7,000lbs (3,175Kg) and also features Raytheon's APG-82(V)1 AESA radar and an Advanced Display Core Processor II. 

Boeing is currently under contract with the USAF to produce 144 of the aircraft to replace legacy F-15C/D platforms. 

The Egyptian F-15 order follows on from the US approving a $13.9 billion F-15ID (designation used for Advanced Eagle exports) package for Indonesia on 10 February – for a maximum of 36 aircraft.

Similar to Egypt, Jakarta pushed forward with the order after pulling away from a Su-35 deal, although Indonesia also recently decided to buy up to 42 Rafales.

Additional reporting by Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo, Milan.

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