Russia said set to sell its top fighter jets to Egypt

In potential shift of orientation away from US, Cairo said hosting Moscow delegation to discuss purchase of 24 MiG-35s

A MiG-35 at an airshow. (photo credit: CC BY Sergey Vladimirov, Flickr)
A MiG-35 at an airshow. (photo credit: CC BY Sergey Vladimirov, Flickr)

Egypt is slated to sign a deal with Russia to purchase 24 advanced MiG-35 fighter jets, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported Tuesday, citing official sources in Moscow and Cairo.

Ahead of the agreement for the sophisticated aircraft — not sold as of yet to any other country — a delegation of Russian advisers are currently in Cairo meeting with officials.

According to a February report of the deal, Egypt was prepared to buy a number of MiG-29 planes, as well as Mi-35 helicopters and other hardware, for over $3 billion. RIA Novosti listed Saudi Arabia and the UAE as funding the purchase.

It is not known when the planes would be sent to Egypt. The Russian Air Force is waiting on 100 new MiG 35s, which are expected to be delivered in 2016, according to a report in Jane’s Defence last week.

The sale to Egypt could be seen as a major blow to US President Barack Obama, who has fought charges of weakening US power in the face of Russian intervention in Ukraine. The Channel 2 analyst described it as a potential case of “Obama losing Egypt to Putin.”

The US, which sends over $3 billion in annual aid to Egypt as part of the Camp David peace accord with Israel, has supplied most of Egypt’s military hardware since 1979.

However, Washington has threatened to withhold some funding following a military coup that saw defense chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi seize power from Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July.

The country is scheduled to hold elections next month, with Sissi expected to cruise to victory.

The election has turned into a contest between the ex-army chief lauded by millions for ousting an Islamist government and a leftist who claims to represent the ideals of the 2011 uprising.

Sissi’s sole rival is Hamdeen Sabbahi, who came third in the 2012 election which Morsi won, and is seen by supporters as the only leader representing the aspirations of those who revolted against the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a vocal supporter of Sissi, having endorsed his candidacy in February, before Sissi announced he would run.

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