TEL AVIV Ñ Egypt's military has failed to exploit its Western
platforms, technology and combat doctrine and poses virtually no threat to
Israel, a new study said.
The study by Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies
asserted that Egypt's military continues to operate under the same Soviet
combat and training doctrine as that during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Egypt
fought the 1973 war with Soviet advisers and weapons.
"It [Egypt] is an army that has changed its characteristics, from
Eastern to Western platforms," Shlomo Brom, a senior researcher at the
center, said. "But when you see how the army operates, there has been no
Egypt, with a force of 450,000 soldiers, about 75 percent of whom
comprise the ground forces, has largely replaced its Soviet arsenal with
U.S. platforms and weapons, Middle East Newsline reported. Egypt has an air force fleet of about 220 F-16s,
800 M1A1 main battle tanks, Apache attack helicopters and Hawk anti-aircraft
batteries Ñ all procured since 1980.
But the report said Egypt, which receives $1.3 billion in annual U.S.
military aid, has failed to implement the Revolution in
Military Affairs [RMA], meant to exploit the Western superiority in
precision-guided weapons, intelligence and command and control. As a result,
Egypt Ñ despite obtaining many of the same platforms acquired by Israel Ñ
has been unable to optimize its battlefield force.
"The assumption that the two sides' weapon systems [Egypt and Israel]
are identical is also inaccurate," the report said. "Israel uses its highly
developed technological infrastructure to alter the weapon systems that it
receives and make them more suitable to the specific conditions of the
conflicts in which it is likely to participate."
The study was based on information provided by U.S. military advisers
who had served in Egypt. The study quoted the advisers as saying that
Egypt's military has been hampered by its inflexible hierarchal structure,
exaggerated sense of honor and lack of cooperation.
"Egypt in 2004 is not Egypt of 1973," said Brom, a former senior Israel
Air Force officer who authored the report along with researcher Yiftah
Shapir. "It is an open country. It has U.S. military advisers and they
The report said Egypt's air force has operated its F-16 fleet in the
same way as the military used Soviet-origin MiG-21s more than 30 years ago.
Egypt, the study said, has failed to train in the use of precision-guided
weapons and lacks a maintenance infrastructure.
"The Egyptians will operate their F-16s [in any future war] using the
same operating concept that they use for operating MiG-21s in the 1970s as
indicated by the format for training and exercises of the present Egyptian
Air Force," the report said.
The report, published in the "Middle East Strategic Balance 2003-2004,"
released on Monday," said Israeli F-16 pilots could defeat their Egyptian
counterparts in any future conflict. Israel's Merkava would also overpower
the Egyptian M1A1 tank, the study said.
The Jaffee Center envisioned a scenario in which Egypt's ground forces
would be exposed to punishing Israeli strikes in any Egyptian attempt to
cross the largely demilitarized Sinai Peninsula. The study said Egypt's lack
of RMA would undermine the range of its F-16 fleet, mechanization of its
ground forces and firepower of Cairo's large navy.
"In a conflict of the type expected in the early 21st Century, however,
they [Egyptian military capabilities] will be relatively unimportant," the
report said. "Furthermore, even in areas where Egypt has built its strength,
the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] buildup has been at least as massive, and
more so in most areas. The gap between the IDF and the Egyptian armed forces
in the most important aspects has not narrowed; it has widened."
Brom said the Jaffee Center initiated the report in response to the
concern expressed by Israeli military commanders and defense officials over
what they termed Egypt's emerging military power. He said that those who
warn against Egypt's procurement of U.S. and Western platforms fail to
account for Cairo's lack of training and weapons suites.
The report said Egypt's air force has deployed "primarily outdated
short-range guided weapon systems, such as the Maverick missiles." Egypt has
also failed to procure the Joint Direct Attack Munitions, the AGM-130, or
the Israeli-origin AGM-142, known as the Popeye.
Over the last 15 years, the report said, Egypt has sought to replace
aging Soviet-origin anti-aircraft batteries with inferior U.S.- and
European-origin surface-to-air missile systems. Cairo has also been
modernizing its heavier Soviet anti-aircraft systems, including the SA-3
At the same time, Egypt was said to be incapable of collecting and
disseminating real-time intelligence. The study said Egypt has also been
unable to operate its command and control systems and lacks adequate
long-range visual intelligence gathering systems for the air force.
The study said Egypt would encounter significant difficulties should the
military be ordered to acquire RMA capabilities. The obstacles would include
a U.S. refusal to transfer advanced systems that could erode Israel's
conventional military superiority, Israel's ability to improve its U.S.
platforms and systems and the lack of Egyptian funding for a paradigm change
in the Egyptian military.
"The Egyptian military regards its main role as defensive and as
constituting a deterrent to Israel," the report said. "In accordance with
this philosophy, it seems to feel fairly confident in its strength and
believes that the quality and quantity of its equipment provides an adequate
counterweight to Israel. The Egyptian military will no doubt aspire to
upgrade this equipment, but so far it has evinced no serious impulse to
change its military doctrine."