by Zachary Hofer, Forecast International.
Many analysts may tout the political implications of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent announcement of the reinstatement of military aid to Egypt. One of the most paramount, politically, is the implication that the U.S. is validating the current Egyptian government; or, in other words, the resumption of aid is an implicit validation of a government that was enabled by a military coup d’état that unseated a democratically elected president. However, strategically, more is afoot.
The U.S. at this stage in its history has serious qualms about endorsing anything founded under the auspices of a military coup d’état. However, given the evolving circumstances in the neighboring Arabian Peninsula – the rise of ISIS, the ever-growing turmoil in Yemen, et al. – the U.S. felt a stronger military ally in Egypt had now become a necessity. In this analyst’s opinion, and most likely the U.S. government’s, one of the key advantages of resuming military aid to Egypt is the bolstering of a military ally with strong air-to-ground attack capabilities, something the U.S.’s recent actions enable.
Lost in the shuffle of Egypt’s back-to-back revolutions was the fact that the country had, in the years leading up to the revolutions, been buying a significant amount of U.S. military hardware. In the uncertainty that followed the revolutions, this hardware was sequestered at its point of origin, the U.S., unable to be delivered to its customer. A noteworthy example of the undelivered military equipment is a number of F-16C/D Block 50s that were left sitting, passive and fallow on the tarmac.
These F-16 Block 50s were a step up from the Block 40s that were already in Egypt’s possession. Among their upgraded capabilities are enhanced combat systems that greatly increase the air-to-ground capability of the fighter jets.
The latest generation of the APG-68 fire control radar included with the Block 50 boasts a high-functioning SAR mode that allows detailed ground imaging and mapping. Additionally, the incoming Block 50’s AAQ-33 Sniper ATP EO targeting pods feature significantly boosted air-to-ground engagement and surveillance capabilities over the Block 40’s outgoing model.
The new, upgraded jet fighters mean that Egypt will soon gain a platform that can engage with not only its aerial targets in a more significant way, but also its ground-based targets. Egypt will be able to fight the U.S.’s chief worry in the Arabic neighborhood, the ground-based insurgents in Yemen and elsewhere, at a much more efficient level than before.