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Monday, June 1, 2009

Obama okays Longbow helicopters for Egypt

WASHINGTON — The United States has approved the transfer of an advanced attack helicopter to Egypt.   

The administration of President Barack Obama has notified Congress that Egypt would receive the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter in an $820 million deal. Congress, notified on the eve of Obama's visit to Cairo and the Middle East, has 30 days to block the Egyptian request for the Longbow, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Egypt will use the AH-64D for its national security and protecting its borders," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said. "The aircraft will provide the Egyptian military more advanced targeting and engagement capabilities. The proposed sale will provide for the defense of vital installations and will provide close air support for the military ground forces. Egypt will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces."

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Officials said the Longbow would be the first of several U.S. military sales to Egypt in 2009. They said Egypt has also requested 24 F-16 Block 52+ multi-role fighters from Lockheed Martin.

Government sources said the administration has held up Israel's request for additional AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters.

The sources said the request was undergoing an interagency review to determine whether additional Longbow helicopters would threaten Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. On May 22, DSCA, part of the Defense Department, notified Congress that Egypt sought 12 Block 2 Longbow helicopters. Block 2 has included upgrades to the digital communications systems to enhance interoperability with air and ground assets.

Officials said the twin-engine helicopters would not contain the Longbow fire control radar, produced by Northrop Grumman. They said Egypt, which has already upgraded 35 AH-64A to D configuration, has long sought the Longbow millimeter-wave radar, meant to identify and track 256 targets simultaneously. Israel, Egypt's neighbor and rival, has received the Longbow fire control radar.

The Egyptian request would include 27 T700-GE-701D engines, 36 Modernized Targeting Acquisition and Designation Systems/pilot night vision sensors, 28 M299 Hellfire Longbow missile launchers, 14 AN/ALQ-144[V]3 infrared jammers, and 14 AN/APR-39B[V]2 radar signal detecting sets. The helicopters would also be equipped with composite horizontal stabilizers, integrated helmet and display sight systems and spare parts.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East," DSCA said. "The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region."

The prime contractor of the proposed sale was identified as Boeing, based in Mesa, Arizona. General Electric and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control would also participate in the project, expected to be financed from the annual $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to Egypt.

"There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale," the agency said.

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