Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Egypt eyes U.S. missiles, equipment

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency has signaled its intent to consider a rash of foreign military sales to Egypt, including the transfer of anti-tank missiles.

The government of Egypt has also requested anti-ship missiles, engine upgrades for its fleet of F-16 jet fighters and Fast Missile Crafts worth an estimated $1.18 billion.

The proposed sale is expected to "contribute to the foreign police and national security objectives 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," the U.S. Defense agency said.

Among Egypt's grab-bag of requests: 450 AGM-114K3A Hellfire II air-to-surface anti-armor missiles, along with associated parts, equipment training and logistical support. This package alone is estimated at $51 million.

Experts say Egypt requires the particular missiles to defend its own borders and to remain militarily viable in the contentious region. Still, the experts maintain, the purchase will not adversely affect the military balance in the region.

Egypt also wants to procure 20 RGM-84L/3 Harpoon Block III anti-ship cruise missiles, 4 Harpoon shipboard command launch control systems, including all consoles, software and shipboard canister launcher units.

The potential sale would also feature support equipment, personnel training and training equipment -- all estimated at $145 million.

Should the deal go through, the principle contractor will be U.S-based Boeing company.

Another export opportunity includes Egypt's request for upgraded F-110-GE-100 engines that power its fleet of F-16 jet fighters. The proposed upgrades will be spread out over six or seven years, in increments of approximately 24 upgraded engines per year, local media reported.

This contract would amount to a value of approximately $750 million and would be carried out by General Electric Aviation, the Defense Professionals Web site reported.

The proposed sales, however, have triggered sharp criticism by Middle East experts who fear the fresh dispatch of arms to Egypt could end up in hostile hands.

"These U.S. arms are likely to fall into the hands of the Islamists, who would be more inclined to immediate aggression," wrote the Examiner. "Egypt needs means of neutralizing the Islamists within. It does not have enemies threatening assault on it with modern armies."

News of Egypt's arms requests follows similar bids from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia recently disclosed that its intent to buy wire-guided radio frequency missiles was aimed at supporting the kingdom's efforts to modernize its national guard.

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