File Photo: Rafale fighter jet (Reuters)
The Armed Forces made a quantum leap in its weapons and defence systems in 2017. The military’s weapons development and procurement programme secured a qualitative edge for the navy, air force and army. The Egyptian navy is the first in the region to acquire an aircraft carrier and state-of-the-art multipurpose Gowind corvettes.
The drive to build Egypt’s military capabilities entailed infrastructural and human resource development. The renovation and expansion of the Mohamed Naguib and Sidi Barrani military bases were part of a comprehensive drive to upgrade seaports, airports, landing strips, roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure and facilities. The military continued to sponsor joint training exercises and manoeuvres with regional and international partners staged in crucial strategic locations.
Multilateral exercises focusing on the Gulf region were conducted alongside other bilateral drills: the Zayed manoeuvres with the UAE; the Faisal manoeuvres with Saudi Arabia; the Hamad drills with Bahrain; the Yarmouk operations with Kuwait and the Aqaba manoeuvres with Jordan. Egypt also took part in the Cleopatra 2017 manoeuvres with France, the Defenders of Friendship tactical exercises with Russia and the Bright Star manoeuvres with the US. The latter resumed for the first time since the January 2011 Revolution.
Egypt continued to diversify its sources of armaments. In addition to procurements from its conventional source of arms, the US, Egypt acquired major military hardware and electronic systems from Russia, France and Germany.
To meet escalating regional and international challenges the Armed Forces identified new theatres of operation. The restructuring that led to the launch of the Southern Fleet was necessary to address mounting threats in the Red Sea, including those posed by the ongoing war in Yemen. The upgrading of the Mohamed Naguib and Sidi Barrani bases in north-western Egypt not only allows the army to better perform its conventional functions but also to undertake new tasks related to combating illegal migration and cross-border infiltration and safeguarding newly discovered economic resources such as the offshore natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.
*This article was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly