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China, Russia in active competition for Egypt's fighter-jets market


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mi.aspGeo Strategy Direct:


China and Russia have been competing to sell fighter-jets to Egypt.

Industry sources said Beijing and Moscow have been participating in an Egyptian tender for combat aircraft for the Air Force. They said Pakistan has also been deemed a major competitor.


"Egypt wants a fighter-jet with technology transfer and coproduction," an industry source said.


The sources said Egypt has set a requirement for 32 fighter-jets with capabilities similar to the U.S.-origin F-16. They said Russia's state-owned arms export agency, Rosoboronexport, has offered the MiG-29SMT, and Beijing has presented the FC-1, developed by China and Pakistan.


Egypt has expressed interest in the production of the FC-1, called JF-17 by Islamabad. In 2007, The Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation approved a request by Cairo to export the RD-93 engine, which powers the FC-1.


The sources said Egypt has sought to produce a foreign fighter-jet under license since at least 2005. They cited U.S. delays in granting Cairo advanced combat aircraft, including the F-16, the mainstay of the Egyptian Air Force. In 2010, more than a decade after its previous deal, Washington launched a project to deliver 20 F-16 Block 52+ to Egypt.


The Egyptian tender was said to mark the fiercest competition between China and Russia for the Middle East defense market. Over the last 20 years, China has failed to become a leading military supplier, although it exported missile and other technology to such countries as Iran, Sudan and Syria.


At this point, the sources said, Egypt could decide the fighter-jet tender based solely on price. They said Pakistan was willing to sell FC-1 for $10 million while the MiG-29SMT has been offered for $35 million.



Russia's Rosoboronexport has warned defense contractors that China could become a leading competitor in the Middle East. Rosoboronexport has determined that Chinese manufacturers were copying Russian platforms and selling them at cut-rate prices.


Meanwhile, Egypt has faced serious obstacles in operating its growing U.S.-origin combat air fleet.


A report said Egypt has been hampered in operating its huge F-16 multi-role fighter fleet. The report by the Center for Strategic and International Relations said Egypt has been struggling with keeping its more than 220 F-16s operational.


"While Egypt continues to acquire growing numbers of F-16s, the air force has suffered from a steady number of crashed aircraft and poor systems integration," the report, titled "The Arab-Israeli Military Balance," said.


Egypt has ordered 20 F-16 Block 52+ fighters from U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin this year. This marked the first Egyptian procurement of the F-16 in more than a decade.


Authored by former Defense Department official Anthony Cordesman, the report said the Egyptian Air Force has been hurt by an inadequate maintenance infrastructure. The report said Egypt has insisted on keeping in service aging aircraft and other platforms.


"As is the case with the Egyptian Army, Egypt maintains a substantial pool of low-grade and obsolete weapons platforms that do not serve any apparent military purpose," the report said.


Egypt has set the lead for other Arab operators of the F-16. The report said Jordan has tripled its fleet of F-16s from 2000 to 2010 while expanding its modern air defense assets.


"While Egypt and Syria have maintained largely unchanged AD [air defense] holdings, Israel and Jordan have expanded their holdings of modern major SAM systems," the report said.



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