GABORONE, Botswana — The Egyptian Air Force (EAF) has taken delivery of the final four of the 20 ex-US Air Force (USAF) Block 52 F-16D 'Fighting Falcon' multirole fighter jets in yet another sign of thawing diplomatic and defense relations between the nations. two long standing allies.
The US halted delivery of the jets, which were ordered in 2006, along with other key items under covered by the US $1.3 billion annual US military aid package to Egypt in July 2013 after the Army toppled the country's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in a bloody coup that was led by current President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi.
In March of this year, US President Barrack Obama signed a decree to restore for the restoration of military aid to Egypt, paving the way for a string of recent deliveries of long-pending military orders over the past four months. Only eight F-16s had been delivered to Egypt by July 2013 when the US suspended the delivery of military aid.
In July of this year, eight aircraft on the F-16s order were delivered to Egypt. The last four aircraft arrived Nov. 4 last Wednesday and were handed over to Egypt by Stephen Beechcroft, the US ambassador to Cairo, at the Cairo West Air Force Base. The USAF will also provide follow-on maintenance and training for Egyptian Air Force pilots, technicians and ground crews.
The delivery of the four brings the total number of F-16D Block 52 fighter jets in the service of the Egyptian Air Force to 195.
Ambassador Beechcroft hailed the completion of the contract as "a step forward in US-Egyptian defense cooperation on fighting terror, bringing stability to the region and strengthening the historic relationship" between the two countries.
Among other operational roles, the F-16s Block 52 aircraft performing missions which include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as (ISR, air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks. According to a request submitted to the US Congress by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in October 2009, Egypt wants to buy 24 more F-16 C/F-16D Block 50 and Block 52 aircraft. from the US.
The notice said Lockheed Martin and other aircraft manufacturers had expressed interest in delivering the $3.2 billion order, which includes associated parts, weapons and support equipment required for the Egyptian Air Force modernization program. However, The deal was stalled by the diplomatic stand-off after the 2013 coup, but it is now among many deals lined up for renegotiation and possible delivery.
Last week, the thaw in relations saw the US and Egypt renew a military-industrial contract for the co-production of the M1A1 Abrams tank in Cairo. A week earlier, the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) had notified Congress of intent to contract Northrop Grumman Systems to refurbish one ex-US Navy E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and control aircraft (A-97) prior to delivery to Egypt. the Egyptian Air Force (EAF).
NAVAIR wants the system to be fully deployed and operational in Egypt within the next three months. The Egyptian force modernization program has led to the acquisition of new and refurbished aircraft, air defense systems, armored personnel carriers, naval vessels and border security systems.
Among other immediate security threats, Egyptian security forces are battling several insurgent groups in the Sinai Peninsula. These include self-proclaimed affiliates of al-Qaida and the Islamic State groupISIL, the Islamic State In the Levant (ISIL) which have established local bases despite a military crackdown that has been going on for the last three years.
Egypt also faces a trans-national terrorist threat and the proliferation of fighters and weapons from the chaotic civil war in neighboring Libya. Egypt is also a troop contributor to the Saudi-led Arab regional military coalition fighting the Houthi rebellion in Yemen.