Production of the first Su-35 for the Egyptian Air Force has begun.
A military diplomatic source said the following to state-owned media outlet TASS Russian News Agency over the weekend: “The Gagarin Aircraft Plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur has launched the production of Su-35, intended to be delivered to the Egyptian Air Force under the contract signed in 2018. The timeframe for [the] first batch’s delivery to the Egyptian side has not been set yet, due to restrictions imposed by the novel coronavirus outbreak.”
The source did not provide further details. TASS noted that it did not have official confirmation of the information.
Russian newspaper Kommersant first revealed the Su-35 contract in March 2019, reporting that Cairo had ordered around two dozen jets at a price of about $2 billion. Under the delivery schedule cited in that report, the aircraft were to begin arriving in Egypt in 2020 or 2021. Given government efforts to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, a number of Russian defense industries have seen reduced activity in recent weeks as staff remain home.
One month after news of the sale broke, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo warned at a congressional hearing that the North African country faced sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which prohibits most arms agreements with the Russian defense industry. Asked about what the U.S. was doing to prevent the sale, Pompeo said, “We’ve made clear that if those systems were to be purchased, the statute CAATSA would require sanctions on the regime. We’ve received assurances from them that they understand that, and I’m very hopeful that they will decide not to move forward with that acquisition.”
The U.S. conveyed other warnings to Egypt later in the year. Egyptian media have quoted officials in the country’s government as rejecting the American pressure and arguing that the procurement of armaments from Russia is a sovereign issue.