Egypt’s latest agreement to buy 30 new Rafale jets will open prospects for other arms deals with France; experts tell Breaking Defence.

“As part of the same agreement, Egypt will probably acquire additional military equipment including FalconEye observation satellite and A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft manufactured by Airbus,” military researcher and defence analyst at the Arab Forum for Policy Analysis in Cairo Mohammad Al-Kenany said.

It also strengthens Paris’ strategic partnership with Cairo, Mohamad Hassan, researcher and defence analyst at the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies.

“Egypt is one of the most important securities and economic partners of France, so it is in Paris’ interest to strengthen its relations with a country that shares the same strategic visions in Libya, the eastern Mediterranean, El Sahel and the Sahara, especially ones related to fighting terrorist and extremist groups hidden behind the veil of societal, cultural and religious work.”

In 2016, Egypt signed several deals worth USD 2.2 billion, including a military telecommunications satellite by France’s Airbus Space Systems and Thales Alenia Space. Still, an agreement to acquire an observation satellite never saw the light due to high-cost reasons.

“Today, the two parties are ready to move forward with two FalconEye satellites, as financial issues are settled,” Al-Kenany added. “The satellite will be similar to the one operated by the UAE armed forces.”

Cairo has been eyeing the MRTT tanker since 2014 due to the lack of air refuelling capabilities within its Air Force.

“This is huge as Egypt will have air refuelling capabilities for the first time,” he added. “If the Rafale, MiG-29 and Su-35 fighter jets were able to perform buddy to buddy air refuelling capabilities on the tactical level, the A330 offers bigger capabilities on the strategic level, extending the operational range of the Air Force to 2000 or 3000 km.”

Al-Kenany hopes the number of MRTT’s will double “given that the Air Force is under continuous development plans to increase in quantity and quality.”

In addition to the aircraft, there is a great deal of naval business in the cards, including 20 new ships ranging from fast missile crafts to light frigates, corvettes and submarines.

“The vessels will be built in our local shipyards, and the Navy is planning to replace the aged fast-attack crafts Tiger, October and Ramadan with new ones,” Al Kenany said. “We also need additional corvettes for coastal and patrol missions, perhaps 1,000-ton offshore patrol vessels, Gowind ships or even additional 3,000-ton MEKO-class ships.”

Al-Kenany said the Navy would not settle for the four German Type 209/1400 mod class subs currently in service for submarines. Instead, Cairo will potentially be offered two additional Type-214 while Naval Group of France will be competing to sell its Scorpene sub, Al-Kenany revealed.

He also confirmed that Cairo has recently acquired four Ground Master 400 (GM400) digital 3D air defence radars from Thales, providing C2 centres with superior situational awareness at all times.

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