By Shawn M. Pine
In September 1996, Egypt held its largest strategic maneuvers ever. Theexercise was code ----d Badr-96 and involved over 35,000 soldiers,including a canal crossing and liberating of a "besieged city." (1) The"enemy" in this exercise was Israel.(2) It is routine for majormilitarily exercises to have code ----s and to involve fictitiousenemies. However, it is most unusual for a country to conduct such anexercise in which the "enemy" is one that the country is presumably atpeace with. Egypt, regardless of its intentions, sent a disturbingmessage to Israel by naming the exercise in honor of its last war withIsrael, and by identifying Israel as the enemy. These events take oneven more significant meaning when one looks at the transformation ofthe Egyptian military forces over the past decade.
Egypt, since 1985, has undertaken serious efforts to achieveconventional military parity with Israel and currently fields the 13thlargest military in the world.(3) Relying on $2.1 billion of annual aidfrom the US, $1.3 billion in military assistance, is currentlymodernizing and building-up its military forces to such an extent thatit is approaching the quantitative and qualitative levels of theIsraeli Defense Forces. In 1994, Egypt surpassed the United States tobecome the second largest arms importer, behind Saudi Arabia, in theworld.(4) Egypt, in a region thatleads the world in the import ofweapons, is the only Middle East country to have increased its armspurchases yearly since 1990.(5)
Since the early 1980's, Egypt has completed two five-year plans, andhas embarked on a third one, to buildup, modernize, and increase itsmilitary capabilities.(6) The first five-year plan, which started in1983, consisted of rebuilding Egypt's military infrastructure that wasdestroyed during the 1973 Arab - Israeli War. The primary focus ofthese efforts included construction of new bases and communicationssystems.(7) From 1988 to 1993, Egypt channeled funds into the air forceby purchasing American F-16s and upgrading its command and control andair-defense capabilities.(
In the current five-year plan, the air force continues to receivepriority. Egypt spends as much as 80 percent of US military aid on theair force. As part of the 'Peace Vector Program', the Egyptian airforce has made four orders of F-16s, totaling 190 planes. About 130F-16s have already arrived and the last batch, which will be assembledin Turkey, will start arriving around 1997.(9) Egypt has also obtainedapproval for the purchase of 21 F-16C aircraft.(10) Egypt's defensecapabilities were greatly enhanced by the acquisition of 180 Hawk and1,000 Hellfire II missile.(11) Additionally, Egypt has been cooperatingwith the US to develop an advanced C 3I system that will assimilatedata from air and ground sources into a single network so that aircraftand missile systems can engage multiple targets simultaneously.(12)
Egypt has enhanced its airborne early warning capabilities by takingdelivery of five Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes.(13) Today, Egypt has thelargest air force in the Arab world, with over 550 airplanes, more thanhalf of which are of Western origin. The Egyptians are also acquiring amodern helicopter fleet. Egypt has already received delivery of 24Apaches (AH-64A), and is expected to take delivery of twelve more.(14)These helicopters posses state-of-the-art night-flying equipment andcarry up to 16 Hellfire antitank weapons and 38 rockets.(15) Theimprovement of the Egyptian air force is not limited to combat planes.The Egyptian air force, according to Israeli military analysts, haveadopted Western command and control, attack techniques, support andaerial combat roles as well as training, most of it at US facilities.The Egyptians have also purchased advance ordnance, avionics andaccessories.(16)
In addition to its air force, Egypt has modernized its ground forces.Until the late 1970s, the Egyptian army comprised 10 divisions, onlyhalf of them either mechanized or armored. Today, the army has 12divisions, all but one of them is either mechanized or armored, andplans to field a total mechanized army by 2005.(17) The result is thatthe Egyptian army is now capable of fielding a modern mechanizedmilitary that can move with the speed and firepower equal to that ofmost modern armies. The mechanized divisions consist of 4,500 armoredpersonnel carriers, the core of which consists of 2,000 US M-113's.However, Egypt is in the process of taking delivery of 611 DutchYPR-765 armored infantry fighting vehicles to replace its BMPforces.(18)
The armored corps has also undergone serious reform. In the 1970s, theEgyptian armored corps was comprised almost exclusively of Soviettanks, the best of which was the T-62. Today, Egypt's armored corps iscomprised of the most modern US tanks. First, Cairo acquired 850 M-60A3s, and formed two armored divisions. After the Gulf War, theEgyptians began to assemble the US-made M1A1, which is widely regardedas one of the finest tanks in the world, under the 'Factory 200'program. Egypt currently has 1,700 M-60's (1,100 M-60A3's), andapproximately 200 M1A1's in addition to approximately 1,600 Soviettanks.(19) Egypt also plans to upgrade all M60A1 tanks to A3standards.(20)
Additionally, Egypt is expanding its own domestic production ofmilitary armaments. The M1A1 'Factory 200' program is a major milestonein Egyptian efforts to achieve limited military self-sufficiency. Egyptobtained US approval in 1984 to build a giant factory to produce newtanks. Under the agreement, the Egyptians will assemble 524 M1A1 tanksand officials hope that will eventually rise to 1,500 tanks.(21) Sixproduction cycles were established with each increment increasing thelevel of technology from General Dynamics Land Systems.(22) The cost isestimated at $3.2 billion. The Egyptians also will produce the 120-mmcannon as well as an increasing number of parts for the tank. Egyptianofficials say the goal is to make Cairo self-sufficient in tankproduction. Egypt has also substantially improved its anti-tankcapability with the acquisition of 500 TOW-2 missiles and its intentionto buy 540 TOW launchers.(23)
Egypt has also taken steps to improve its navy. Egypt is focusing onupgrading the Egyptian fleet of eight submarines acquired from China.Egypt has leased two former US navy Knox class missile frigates and isexpected to receive 10 ex-US Navy Seasprite ASW helicopters upgraded toSH-2G(E) standards.(24) As part of its inculcation of Westerntechnology, the navy holds joint maneuvers with units of the American,French, British and Italian navies. Egypt is also modernizing fourChinese-built Romeo class submarines with improved weapon systemsincluding Harpoon missiles, fire control systems and sonars.(25)
Egypt is bordered by Libya, Sudan, and Israel. While Sudan's Islamicregime is ideologically troublesome, its 300 main battle tanks (250 ofwhich are T-54/55's), and some 50 combat aircraft pose a negligiblemilitary threat to Egypt. On paper, Libya's military is far moreformidable than Sudan's. However, its forces hardly pose a militarythreat to Egypt. Some 1,600 of Libya's 2,200 tanks are old SovietT-54/5's. Moreover, a lack of manpower has forced Libya to place overhalf of these tanks, as well as many of its 400 aircraft, in storage,thereby making Libya little more than a massive arms depot.(26) It issignificant to note, that Libya's 80,000 man military is less thantwenty percent the size of Egypt's. Finally, despite the triangle oftension between Egypt, Sudan, and Libya, they have generallydemonstrated a willingness to support each other over perceivedpan-Islamic issues.(27) Consequently, there is little doubt that Israelis the target of Egypt's massive military buildup. Indeed, anexamination of Egyptian perspectives towards Israel leaves little doubtthat Egypt has not ruled out the prospect of a future conflict withIsrael.
Former Egyptian President Sadat's support of expanded relations withIsrael never came to fruition as Egypt's intellectual, political, andeconomic elite continued to shun Israel as a regional actor.(28) Thepassage of time has not improved Egyptian perceptions toward, or itsacceptance of, Israel.(29) The Egyptian Bar Association continues toburn American and Israel flags on every anniversary of the signing ofthe 1979 peace treaty.(30) Nor has the Palestinian - Israeli peaceprocess resulted in a softening of Egypt's harsh rhetoric towardIsrael. In 1996, Egyptian criticisms of Israel reached such a crescendoas to provoke official complaints from the Israeli Foreign Ministry,Israeli President Ezer Weizman, and even from Israeli Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu.(31)
A study of Egyptian university graduates, who were in college duringthe signing of the Egyptian - Israeli peace treaty, found that 92.8percent believed that Israeli was an expansionist, aggressive, stateheaded by terrorists.(32) However, Egyptian rejection of Israel is notconfined to Egypt's intellectual, political, and economic elite, butpermeates throughout the Egyptian population. An Egyptian publicopinion poll showed that 98 percent of the people opposed fullnormalization of relations with Israel. The same poll showed that 97percent opposed cultural ties, 96 percent opposed economic ties, andthat 92 percent opposed normal tourist ties.(33) The fact that thesepolls were taken well before the election of Benjamin Netanyahu makesMubarak's remark that "The Egyptian man in the street's feelingstowards Israel have worsened ever since Netanyahu came to power" seemrather vacuous.(34)
It is important to note, that Egypt's hostility towards Israel is notonly ideological but also based upon pragmatic considerations. Egypt isin direct competition with Israel over American economic, military, andpolitical support. Israel and Egypt currently receive almost 42 percent($5.1 out of a total of $12.2 billion), of all US foreign militaryassistance. As the United States addresses its national social andeconomic problems, both countries will be targeted for reductions ofaid from the current levels. Additionally, Egypt hopes to replaceIsrael as the major US strategic ally in the region. Consequently,Egypt has a vested interest in preventing Israeli integration in theregion and maintaining an atmosphere of "controlled tension." Finally,Egypt, as with most of the countries in the region, fears that Israeliintegration will result in Israeli economic domination in the region.Given this reality, Israeli political leaders and strategic plannerswould be prudent to reassess the peace process and how it relates toIsrael's security. ENDNOTES
1. Badr was the code ---- of the 1973 Egyptian attack against Israel.
2. Egyptian Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi reportedly statedthat the exercise was training in the event of a nuclear attack byIsrael.
The Jerusalem Post, September 20, 1996.
3. Egypt's intentions were stated by Egyptian Foreign Minister AmrMoussa. The Jerusalem Post, March 11, 1994. Data on the size of theEgyptian armed forces was taken from US Arms Control Defense Agency(ACDA), 95/13, November 1, 1995.
4. ACDA, 95/13, November 1, 1995.
5. Egypt's 1994 imports is approximately 70 percent higher than its 1990 totals. Ibid.
6. The Jerusalem Post, March 11, 1994.
10. Jane's Defence Weekly, April 17, 1996, p. 3. Delivery of theseaircraft is expected to begin in 1999 and be completed by the year2000.
11. Jane's Defence Weekly, May 1,1996, p. 8.
12. Jane's Defence Weekly, February 28, 1996, p. 23.
15. The Military Balance 1995-1996. Egypt was to take delivery of 24 AH-64's by the end of 1995.
16. The Jerusalem Post, March 11, 1994.
17. Jane's Defence Weekly, February 28, 1996. p. 22.
18. Jane's Defence Weekly, March 6, 1996, p. 23. These AIFV's include304 YPR-765 PRI's mounted with a 25mm gun and coaxil 7.62mmmachine-gun, and 210 YPR-765 PRAT-TOW's.
19. The Military Balance 1995-1996.
20. Jane's Defence Weekly, February 28, 1996. p. 23.
22. Jane's Defence Weekly, February 21, 1996, p. 16.
23. Jane's Defence Weekly, February 28, 1996. p. 23.
24. Military and Arms Transfer News, November 1, 1995 and Jane's Defence Weekly, February 28, 1995.
26. Data for the Libyan and Sudanese militaries was taken from the IISS Military Balance for 1995.
27. For example, notwithstanding the belief that Sudan was behind theJune 1995, assassination attempt on Mubarak's life, Egypt opposed USattempts to impose a military embargo on Sudan.
28. Mosely Ann Lesch and Mark Tessler. Israel, Egypt and thePalestinians: From Camp David to Intifada, (Indiana : IndianaUniversity Press), p. 62.
29. Hosni Mubarak stated that the intelligentsia and the professionalin Egypt were as fanatically opposed to the acceptance of Israel as arethe fundamentalist militants. The Jerusalem Post, September 7, 1995.
30. The Jerusalem Post, January 1, 1996.
31. The Jerusalem Post, September 20, 24, and October 8, 1996.
32. The study was conducted by Dr. Ahmed Zaree of Al-Azhar university.His study also revealed that 63 percent of those polled viewed Egyptian- Israeli normalization as a national security threat. The JerusalemPost, March 3, 1996.
33. The Jerusalem Post, May 3, 1995.
34. Cairo Press Review, November 18, 1996.
=============== Shawn M. Pine is a career military and intelligenceofficer who writes frequently on security affairs. He is currentlyresiding in San Antonio. He is a candidate for Doctor of PhilosophyDegree In International Relations (Ph.D.), The Hebrew University inJerusalem, Israel. Dissertation Subject: Offensive and defensiverealism. He is developing a model of expectations of state behaviorwithin the theoretical framework of offensive and defensive realism.These models of expectations will facilitate the identification ofaggressive tendencies in states which will enable status quo states toundertake efforts to ameliorate potential sources of conflict or takethe requisite precautions to deter aggressive intentions. The Arab -Israeli wars and current peace process will be used as case studies