Egypt: The "Badr 2014" Military Exercise

Dr. Shaul Shay reviews the "Badr 2014" exercise, the largest Egyptian military maneuver since 1996, focused on a defensive strategy to counter hostile attacks, implement force mobilization procedures, confront emergency situations, make quick decisions, achieve air superiority and carry out air attacks through all the stages of the maneuver

(Photo: AP Photo/Sherif Abd El Minoem, Egyptian Presidency)

The exercise, dubbed "Badr 2014", set for Oct. 11- Nov. 6, 2014, was the largest Egyptian military maneuver since 1996, doubling the size of the forces that participated then. Since 1996, "Badr" Maneuvers were also carried out in 2008 and 2010 on the order of former President Hosni Mubarak, in 2012 under the then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and in 2013 under interim President Adly Mansour.

The Egyptian Military Spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir, declared that the "Badr 2014" was the largest and most sophisticated strategic exercise in terms of planning, training, and size of forces involved.

The Egyptian Armed Forces are the largest in Africa and the Middle East, consisting of the army, navy, air force and the air defence command. Large paramilitary forces also exist, such as the Central Security Forces (under the control of the ministry of the interior) and Border Guard Forces (under the control of the ministry of defence). The Egyptian Armed Forces receive military assistance from the US; most of the $1.5 billion given to Egypt every year is military aid.

The main objective behind the maneuver was to protect national targets and achieve deterrence for all potential threats with the highest degree of combat readiness. The maneuver focuses on a defensive strategy to counter hostile attacks, implement force mobilization procedures, confront emergency situations, make quick decisions, achieve air superiority and carry out air attacks through all the stages of the maneuver.

Other aims of the exercise were to boost the experience of leaders, deploy large forces effectively, ensure quick and decisive decisions are carried out in response to differing situations or emergencies, ensure forces are effectively inserted by sea and air, protect shipping lanes.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir added that "Badr 2014" had two major phases: The opening or primary phase which included the preparation and processing of the forces and equipment involved and eventually their deployment. The secondary phase or the principal phase of the exercise, that included the building up of defenses in order to carry out a strategic defensive operation.

The Egyptian Navy has carried out an exercise called "Zat Esawari" as a part of the larger Armed Force's exercise "Badr 2014."

The Ground Forces

The exercise included units from the Mechanized Infantry, Armored Divisions, Artillery, and Rapid Deployment Forces.

The Commander In Chief and Minister of Defense and Military Production General Sedki Sobhi and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Lt. General Mahmoud Hegazy, attended on October 27,2014, a simulation of a Suez Canal crossing. The simulated crossing was executed by the Third Army. Military engineers connected the western and eastern banks of the canal via movable bridges, allowing vehicles and tanks to cross the Suez Canal. Army units used APCs and boats aided by air forces units.

In another phase of the exercise, Third Field Army's mechanical infantry and armored units carried out a landing operation to counter a stimulated attack by hostile air landing troops and regain control over an important mountainous strait in South Sinai.

Commander of the Third Field Army Major General Osama Askar said that the army personnel have expressed their determination to undertake all assignments given to them in defense of the homeland.

The "Badr-2014" exercise included formation of troops conducting strategic maneuvers while operating the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System in order to simulate a realistic war scenario. The formations of troops were covered and supported by Navy assets while advancing beyond obstacles under a live fire scenario.

The Special Forces and Paratroopers were involved in the exercise; they were tasked with air insertions and conducting raids and ambushes behind enemy lines.

The Air Force

The management of air operations on several strategic fronts was one of the tasks assigned to the Air Force during "Badr 2014". Air Force fighter jets provided support and security during every phase of the exercise, engaging air threats, as well as providing air support for forces on the ground or at sea alongside its other tasks.

On November 3, 2014, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, attended the main phase of the Air Force exercises in Wadi Nartun, as part of "Badr 2014 " Strategic Maneuver. The exercises, carried out by formations of the Air Force, aimed at securing strategic fronts and involved elements of the special units and Army Rapid Deployment Forces.

The drill involved more than 250 combat fighters and choppers as they carried out more than 60 air sorties in cooperation with units of paratroopers, Egyptian commandos and the Central Military Region regiments.

Rapid Deployment Forces (RDF)

On 25 March 2014 Egyptian Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi unveiled to military leaders and local media the country’s rapid deployment force (RDF). The presentation of this new force came at a politically sensitive time – the following day al-Sisi officially resigned as head of the military in order to pursue the presidency.

Egypt’s RDF is not an entirely new creation, but rather a task force assembled from a variety of existing units. Its troops are backed by light armored vehicles and have a dedicated air fleet and helicopters for transport and transport aircrafts. Its airborne capabilities allow it to operate both inside and outside Egypt’s borders. Exercise "Badr 2014" was the first time that the new unit took part in such a large scale drill.

The Air Defense

The Air Defense in exercise "Badr 2014" was represented in the provision of a live fire exercise in order to protect and secure the skies of Egypt against different aerial threats. Air defense units participated in the exercises of the ground forces providing air defense to the crossing of the Suez Canal.

The Navy Annual Exercise "Zat Esawari"

The Egyptian Navy is the largest navy in Middle East and Africa, and is the 7th largest in the world measured by the number of vessels.

The annual exercise of Egyptian Navy has been carried for years to celebrate the Navy Day (October 21) with the same code name "Zat Esawari" (The code name Zat Esawari refers to the victory in 655 of the Caliphate over the Byzantine navy).

The Navy Day marks the October 21, 1967, sinking of the Israeli destroyer "Eilat "some 12 miles from Port Said. Eilat was sunk by two surface-to-surface Styx missiles launched by Egyptian missile boats some four months after Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 war. The family of late admiral Fouad Zikri, who served during the War of Attrition (1968-1970), had been invited to the celebration. Zikri’s widow joined Al-Sisi, senior naval and army officers for breakfast.

The naval exercise this year is a part of exercise" Badr 2014". President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, attended the exercises alongside Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi, senior military commanders and cabinet ministers. Al-Sisi inaugurated new facilities at the expanded Ras Al-Tin naval base and toured recently modernized areas of the navy’s headquarters. Al-Sisi was briefed about the exercises on board the frigate Taba.

The exercises included mine sweeping, combatting piracy on the high seas, securing commercial shipping, intercepting suspicious vessels, tracking smugglers and, perhaps the most difficult, a simulated exercise that involved detecting and destroying enemy submarines. A helicopter took off from a frigate to locate the submarine with sonar devices. The enemy boat was then destroyed with torpedoes fired from both the helicopter and a destroyer. A surface to surface missile battle was staged to test the accuracy of missiles. Submarines also launched torpedoes and depth/ surface missiles at an enemy naval unit.

The exercise has been carried out both in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and included the insertion of Navy forces by sea, and the insertion of Special Forces to conduct raids behind enemy lines. The Navy was supported by the Air Force, Air Defense, and Electronic Warfare assets during and after the preparation and deployment of Naval assets in order to destroy hostile enemy threats. The Air Force deployed several types of fighters, helicopters, and transport aircraft to support the Navy.

In a statement, Navy commander Admiral Osama Al-Guindi told reporters his troops had been working hard for long to mobilize its abilities to overcome the challenges of the current political phase. “Our waters, coasts and harbors are a red line. Whoever dares to come close with hostile intentions will be received by death,” Al-Guindi said during the press conference held to mark Navy Day. Addressing developments in Yemen and their impact on navigation in the Suez Canal, Al- Guindi said: “We watch the situation and monitor every change. Our units work to secure navigation 24 hours a day.”

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, in a statement released by the presidential spokesman, likened the success of the 25 January and 3 July revolutions to the 21 October 1967 sinking of the Eliat in Port Said. The sinking took place shortly after the 1967 war between Egypt and Israel. Al-Sisi noted that these events changed the reality of Egypt politically, economically and socially, and he praised the navy as one of the main branches of the Egyptian military. Al-Sisi stressed the need for an effective and modern navy as regional events, including ongoing political and social strife in Yemen and piracy, continue to threaten the well-being of Egyptians.

Exercise "Badr 1996"

In September 1996, Egypt undertook military exercises near the Suez Canal. Exercise "Badr 96" was considered as the biggest exercise since the "Yom Kippur" war in 1973.

In describing one component of "Badr 96" which included exercises to "deal with nuclear attacks on Egypt", Defense Minister Field Marshal Muhammad Hussein Tantawi said the following:

"In spite of the security imbalance in the region, which stems from Israel's possession of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, our armed forces are well trained to work under conditions where the enemy uses weapons of mass destruction... If any state possesses such weapons, it will be tantamount to an invitation to neighboring states to try to obtain unconventional weapons and that is not difficult these days for many states."

At the time, the managing editor of the al-Ahram newspaper, the state-owned major Egyptian daily, explained that "the lessons of "Badr 73" and "Badr 96" take us back to the starting point... that the end of war does not necessarily mean the achievement of peace, and vice-versa." He went on to explain that "Netanyahu may have been confident that the Arabs are no longer either able or willing to resume confrontations of the "Badr 73" type and thus proceeded to pursue his foolish policies which plunged the region into a sea of blood... But he [Netanyahu] recently woke up to [the] urgent message that reached him from Egypt, the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, through the great strategic maneuver "Badr 96", which reminded him and all Israelis of "Badr 73", stretching from Sinai to the Golan."

Summary and Conclusions

Egypt has two main strategic objectives. First, Egypt desires to improve security and stability in the country. Secondly it hopes to reassert its historic leadership role and become the regional hegemony. The military has a key role in achieving Egypt's strategic goals. With the rise of Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, a new generation of military leadership in Egypt has taken control of the country’s armed forces. The older generation, including former Defense Minister Mohammed al-Tantawi, was averse to any changes in Egyptian military doctrine. Exercise "Badr 2014" and the creation of the RDF signals a move toward enhancing Egypt’s more offensive, conventional, asymmetric and counterinsurgency capabilities both within and beyond the country’s borders.

Exercise "Badr 2014" is introducing a new and updated strategy that responds to the current and future threats: A potential conflict with Israel; Counter terrorism and insurgency in Egypt; Counter terrorism and insurgency in Sinai and along the border with Gaza; Counter terrorism and insurgency from Libya; Counter terrorism and insurgency from Sudan; Rapid deployment capability to support Egyptian allies and to protect Egyptian strategic interests outside Egypt’s borders.

During "Badr 2014", President Abdel-Fattah Al Sisi praised the preparedness of the Armed Forces and their capabilities to protect the homeland. Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said President Sisi was keen to warn of the danger in Sinai and highlight the importance of eliminating terrorism and extremism.
According to Youssef, the president stressed the Armed Forces' keenness on avoiding confrontations, saying the army only took exceptional measures after feeling the danger of terrorism from parties seeking to disseminate sedition and division among Sinai residents.
"The measures taken in the Sinai Peninsula aimed at protecting the country's national security and that those who seek sedition will not be allowed to achieve their goals," said the spokesman quoting the president.
On November 8, 2014, as a part of learning lessons from the exercise, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met with Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi and a number of top army officials. The meeting reviewed the outcome of "Badr 2014" military maneuver and its contributions to the combat skills of the armed forces. The President lauded the performance of the armed forces in the military exercise, the spokesman added.

Israel is quietly stepping up its military co-operation with Egypt as both countries confront security threats from jihadist groups in the Sinai region and Hamas in Gaza strip. However, Egypt continues to see Israel as its primary military potential threat despite a decades-old peace treaty.

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