Egyptian Air Force new Sukhoi Su-35 breaks cover

The first five Sukhoi Su-35 fighters for the Egyptian Air Force have been photographed at Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport en route from the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant. The five Su-35 aircraft with production serial numbers (9210, 9211, 9212, 9213, 9214) has been completed and delivery is expected to commence.

Egypt signed a $2 billion deal for the supply of around two dozen Russian Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft in March 2018, despite the threat of US sanctions, straining relations between Cairo and Washington. Thus, making it the second country after China to acquire the Su-35, the most advanced 4th generation jets in Russian inventory.

Manufacture of Su-35 fighter jets for Egypt began in May this year at the JSC Sukhoi factory in Komsomolsk Sur Amour in the Russian Far East. In response to the sale, the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Egypt against buying Russian Su-35 fighter jets, declaring that the US could enact sanctions on Egypt through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA) against Egypt.

CAATSA requires the US to sanction anyone conducting transactions with the Russian intelligence and military services, including arms manufacturers. 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 Trump administration said it was worried about what it called “Cairo’s deepening relationship with Moscow,” explaining that such a move has “alarmed” the US Government – Egypt’s long time strategic ally.

For a long time, Egypt has pursued a policy of diversification in arms procurement, for national security purposes, reaching out to countries like Germany, France, China and Spain, an indication that it is not solely looking to Russia. Egypt opted for the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 as well as French Rafale aircraft after the United States declined to sell it F-35 fighter jet.

The Su-35, is Russia’s most advanced operational fighter, where it has been flying combat missions against the Islamic State and anti-government rebels. Russian has placed orders for a total of 98 aircraft, the last of which are due for delivery later this year.

The Su-35S is a heavily upgraded 4++ generation supermaneuverable multipurpose fighter jet developed from the legacy Su-27 fighter jet.

The aircraft features several fifth-generation technologies, and is distinguished by its new avionics suite based on the information control system, a new radar, and plasma ignition engines of the increased capacity and thrust vectoring.

With 12 to 14 weapon hard points, 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.

The Su-35 adds to a large number of combat aircraft already in Egypt’s inventory including 75 Mirage 5, 19 Mirage 2000, 25 Dassault Rafale, 218 F-16 Fighting Falcon, and 41 MiG-29M/M2.

The Egyptian Air Force is also seeking several new aircraft from France including  24 Eurofighter Typhoon multirole jets, 24 M346 jet trainers, making experts wonder how they will effectively manage such large number of diverse aircraft.

Ekene Lionel

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