Mubarak comes to Washington with a long shopping list

Monday, April 5, 2004

Egypt has presented the United States with a long shopping list of advanced airborne, naval and ground-based weapons.

U.S. officials and congressional sources said the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has submitted a list of weapons sought for procurement by Cairo over the next five years. They focused on weapons long denied to Egypt and part of Mubarak's plans to establish a rapid-response force for missions throughout the Middle East, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Mubarak has told the Bush administration that Egypt needs a rapid-response force to ensure stability in the Middle East," an official said. "Such a force would be able to protect Egypt's interests in such a neighboring country as Sudan and in far-off states as Saudi Arabia."

Mubarak will discuss his request during his meeting with President George Bush in Crawford, Texas on April 12. He will also meet Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The Egyptian weapons list has focused on airborne precision-strike weapons. Officials said Egypt also seeks such platforms as the C-130J air transport, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, and the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter.

This was the first Egyptian request for the C-130J, which has been marketed by both Lockheed Martin and the Defense Department in the Middle East. Mubarak's request would make Egypt the first customer of the C-130J in the region.

Egypt has also requested an additional squadron of new AH-64D Apache Longbows, officials. Egypt already has ordered the conversion of 36 AH-64A Apache helicopters to D configuration. The latest request would seek to extend the Boeing Co. production line for Kuwait for Egypt as well. Kuwait has ordered 12 Longbows from the United States.

Officials said Egypt also wants Lockheed Martin's new Longbow fire control system and radar with any Apache order. The Bush administration refused an earlier Egyptian request for the Longbow radar.

The Egyptian request also includes advanced precision-strike weapons for its airborne platforms. Officials said the Egyptian list includes the Joint Direct Attack Munition, a Boeing system which converts general purpose bombs into precision weapons.

Cairo has also requested the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, manufactured by Raytheon. Egypt intends to deploy the AMRAAM on its F-16 fleet and officials said Cairo's F-16C/D fleet would have to undergo an upgrade to accommodate the missile.

The Egyptian weapons list also includes the Harpoon-2 anti-ship missile as well as mobile transport platforms. Officials said the platforms were meant to ensure the rapid advance of Egyptian ground forces, anti-aircraft systems and artillery anywhere in the Middle East.

Israeli officials have expressed concern over the Egyptian wish list. They said the U.S. weapons sought would significantly bolster Cairo's military capability, particularly those required for air and ground missions in the demilitarized Sinai Peninsula, transferred by Israel to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace treaty.

"On the table are requests for a range of new and precision weapons, GPS-guided munitions and a range of new weapons that Egypt has not received from the United States and could hurt Israel's qualitative edge," Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz said. "Always when there is on the table advanced and worrisome weapons, suddenly there is a short period of [Egyptian] smiles [toward Israel]."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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