Egypt has signed an agreement with Russia for the purchase of 20 to 24 Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role fighter jets worth about $2 billion, according to a report by the Kommersant news daily. The delivery of the aircraft, including their weapon systems, will begin as early as 2020-21. The deal has not yet been confirmed by official sources.
While the details of the contract were not specified, the report said the signing of the contract took place sometime before the end of 2018.
The Su-35, Russia’s most advanced operational fighter, has proved its worth in Syria where it has been flying combat missions against the Islamic State and anti-government rebels. The Russian MoD has placed orders for a total of 98 aircraft, the last of which are due for delivery later this year.
China was the jet’s first foreign customer, in November 2015, with a $2.5 billion order for 24 aircraft. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) took deliveries of the Su-35 in 2016-2018. Indonesia was the second to sign a contract for 11 aircraft worth $1.1 billion. Delivery of the first Su-35 to Indonesia may begin as early as the end of 2019.
The Su-35 is a multi-purpose fighter jet designed by Sukhoi on the basis of the Su-27 twin-engine supermaneuverable fighter aircraft. The first prototypes of the Su-35 were rolled out in 2007 and production began in 2009.
With 12 to 14 weapon hardpoints, the Su-35 is able to use K-77M radar-guided missiles that reportedly have a range of almost 200km. The jet is also armed with a 30mm cannon with 150 rounds for strafing or dogfighting. The Su-35 can reportedly carry up to 8,000kg of air-to-ground munitions.
Cairo’s ties with Washington plummeted after Egypt's army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, with the US temporary freezing its annual $1.3 billion in military aid. Egypt has learned its lessons and decided to reduce the overreliance on one provider (the US), and diversifying the sources of Egypt’s armaments became a strategic priority. As part of the Egyptian policy, Russia became a significant source of arms supply.
First contract worth $3.5 billion covered the S-300VM4 “Antei 2500” and Buk-M2E anti-aircraft missiles, with shipments in 2015-2017. Later on, Cairo added a contract worth $2 billion for 46 MIG 29M\M2 fighters. In 2017, Egypt signed a $1 billion contract for Kamov Ka-52 helicopters and Ka-52K ship-borne helicopters.
The reported Su-35 deal comes amid growing US pressure on countries worldwide not to buy Russian-produced arms. In September 2018, the US imposed sanctions on the Chinese military's Equipment Development Department and its director for purchasing Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia.
The penalties were applied under a law that requires the US to sanction anyone undertaking significant transactions with certain people affiliated with Russian intelligence and military services, including arms manufacturers. The deal with Egypt is yet to be confirmed and it remains to be seen whether Egypt will also be sanctioned for the Su-35 purchase.
Egypt has one of the biggest armed forces in the Middle East. Between 1982 and 2013, the Egyptian air force received 240 Lockheed Martin F-16s from the US. Egypt ordered and received in 2015-2017, 24 Dassault Rafale fighters from France, followed by the MiG-29Ms, of which deliveries are ongoing. Now, with the Su-35 order, the Egyptian air force is going to have three new types of fourth-generation fighters in service. The current arms deals will help Egypt to upgrade and modernize its air force.
[Sources: Kommersant, RT, AIN Online, Jane's Defence Weekly, CNN]