WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has announced the possible $81.4 million sale of helicopter missile warning systems to Egypt and the $65.3 million sale of two Cessna AC-208 light attack aircraft for Iraq.
The sale to Egypt comes more than two years after Islamic militants shot down an Egyptian military helicopter in the Sinai Peninsula with a surface-to-air missile, killing five soldiers. At the time, the attack was seen as confirmation that arms looted during the Libyan civil war had spilled into the Sinai.
BAE Systems and Dyncorp are the contractors for the Egypt sale, according to the announcement posted on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency's website Friday. The deal would include 67 AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems, installation, testing, training and logistical support.
AH-64E Apache, UH-60 Blackhawks and CH-47 Chinook helicopters with the Egyptian Air Force would receive the systems, which detect infrared missiles. The sale is beneficial to the US because it improves the security of a strategic partner seen as "an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East," according to the DSCA announcement.
A militant group, which has since pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, reportedly used a looted missile to down the Egyptian helicopter in 2014. Reports conflict on whether the weapon was one of thousands of Libyan shoulder-fired, man-portable air defense systems believed to have exited the country, but whatever its origin, it appears to have fueled Egyptian demand to protect its helicopters.
"If I were head of procurement for the Egyptian military, that certainly would have caught my attention," said Matt Schroeder, manager of the Small Arms Survey's Arms Sales Monitoring Project. "The question is how long has the search for a counter-missile system been in the making. It's as good an explanation as any and certainly contributes to the perceived need for it."
In the Iraq sale, Baghdad would use the Cessnas for military operations against al-Qaida affiliate and ISIS forces, a separate Friday announcement said. Iraq originally purchased three AC-208 Combat Caravans and three C-208s in 2008.
The principal contractor is Orbital ATK, of Falls Church, Virginia.
The aircraft are equipped with dual-rail LAU-131 Hellfire launchers on each wing, AN/ALE-47 electronic countermeasure dispensers, AN/AAR-60 missile launch warning systems and AN/AAQ-35 electro-optical infrared imaging systems.
Teal Group aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia called the plane "the poor man's A-10," referring to the US plane used for close-in support of ground troops. He estimated the Cessnas themselves cost $8 million each, while the support package and weaponry make up the rest of the deal's cost.
"Typically, it's the lowest-cost solution when the airspace is completely uncontested and surface-to-air fire is minimal," Aboulafia said of the AC-208.