After procuring 24 Rafale fighter jets from France, Egypt has received the first order of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters. As per reports, the key objective of Egypt to acquire Su-35s over Rafale jets was that the Russian heavy-weight jets can outperform the Israeli and US warplanes in the Middle-East region.
According to Russia Today, “The sources indicated that these heavy and long-range fighter jets would give the Egyptian army superiority in the regional sky, which is why the US strongly objected.”
As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, despite boasting of awe-inspiring capabilities, the French origin jets didn’t see many buyers. Egypt was the first overseas contract for the Rafale jets, 14 years after it entered service in France.
Other than France and Egypt, only India and Qatar are using Rafale jets and that too in very limited numbers. The Rafale’s practical ceiling is lower than the J-16s and even in engine thrust, the Chinese J-16s and Russian Su-35s are far superior to the French combat aircraft.
Last year, Egypt had inked a deal worth US$ 2 billion to buy 24 Russian-made Su-35 fighter jets. After receiving 24 Rafale jets, Egypt has now received Russian Sukhoi Su-35, a first for Egypt.
The Sukhoi Su-35 fighters are capable of speeds of 2,800 kilometres per hour over an altitude of 11 kilometers, with a range of 4,500 kilometers. With the added external fuel tanks, it will allow the fighters to travel even further distance without having to refuel.
Their in-flight refuelling capabilities make them competitive with US F-35 fighter jets. It perceived as the ultimate variant of the big Russian fighter sometimes referred to as the “Super Flanker.” The Su-35 features thrust-vectoring engines and a brand-new mission suite, including a Tikhomirov NIIP N135 Irbis Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA) radar and a “glass” cockpit.
Major-General Nasr Salem, the former head of the Egyptian army’s reconnaissance department and professor of strategic studies at the Nasser Higher Military Academy said that the Egyptian acquisition of the Su-35 fighters, along with MiG-29Ms, Rafale fighters and F-16 Falcons, will ensure air control so as to protect Egyptian interests.
However, the US threat of sanctions now looms on Egypt. Washington objected to this deal last year when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper urged Egypt’s defence minister to cancel the deal. They warned of sanctions under the US’ Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) provision.
Experts believe that Egypt’s purchase may be aimed at diversifying its supply. Egypt has been long dependent on the US for its military equipment. Egypt received $1 billion in U.S. annual aid that it is largely required to spend on American gear.
However, Washington’s aid to Egypt was intermittently suspended when the military ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
Even after the aid was restored, the relations between the two nations soured. “Egypt has been so dependent on the U.S. that it is beginning to try to find some kind of contingency arrangement so that it can’t be levered by Congressional pressure to change their policies on dealing with dissidents,” said Anthony Cordesman, Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Salem has also echoed a similar sentiment questioning the US. “Why doesn’t the US supply Egypt with the F-35 fighters that it supplied Israel since it is objecting to the Russian Su-35 fighters deal?” he asked, adding that Egypt’s military seeks to procure equipment equal to that owned by Israel.