Analysis: Italy-Egypt mega deal for trainers and fighters? Maybe, but not soon

Italy Egypt deal trainer fighter
Eurofighter Typhoon multirole combat aircraft.

The news about a possible mega arms deal between Italy and Egypt published by some media last year has aroused strong discontent. They said the two nations are negotiating an order worth around € 9 billion that includes four more FREMM frigates [Italy has already delivered two of them to Egypt in December 2020], 20 offshore patrol vessels, 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, 20 M-346 trainer jets and one satellite.

However, such an agreement may still be far away due to the strong disagreements caused in Italy by the news. Following the rumors of the deal, critics accused the Italian government of not following the proper procedures for approving such an agreement, while human rights groups and activists denounced the sale of arms to a country with a bad reputation for human rights. Some of them, including Amnesty International, have launched the 'StopArmiEgitto' (StopArmsEgypt) campaign to bring the reported agreement under parliamentary control. They claimed that such a deal would violate national arms sales legislation and have threatened legal action.

However, these uprisings will not prevent Cairo from procuring new weapons as in the event of a renunciation by Italy, they will come from France, Russia or the United States, penalizing Italian industry.

Egypt could also benefit from an agreement with Rome. In addition to a new fighter, the Egyptian Air Force is looking to replace its old fleet of EMB312 Tucano basic trainer aircraft and EAF K-8E advanced trainer jets. They could be replaced by the modern Leonardo M-345 and M-346 jets which are also suitable to cover the light attack role as per the requirements of Egypt. Leonardo is the only manufacturer currently able to offer aircraft for all phases of flight training, offering a unique supply chain to the Egyptian armed forces that are already struggling to manage a very varied fleet of combat aircraft. The service currently operates F-16, Mirage 5, Mirage 2000, J-7, Rafale and MiG-29M Fulcrum aircraft and soon the Flanker M. Such a wide range undoubtedly causes headaches to those in charge of keeping the jets operational, as well as huge expenses. This is also the reason why Italy could be favored for trainers, but not for front-line fighters.

Do not forget that Egypt signed an agreement with France in 2015 to procure 24 Dassault Rafales and the type is very similar to the Eurofighter. Furthermore, the Egyptian Air Force has been successfully using French combat aircraft for several decades, all of which have common features. We therefore believe that the French fighter has an advantage over the Eurofighter in a future order from Cairo.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo Credit: Katsuhiko Tokunaga

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