Egypt Is a Likely Candidate for Buying Russian Fighter Jets

A number of constructions of Russia’s iconic MiG aircraft are on the way, as reported by the Moscow Times. The company is now building 46 brand-new MiG-29M fighter jets in a contract reported to be worth at least $2 billion.  But an important question remains: who is purchasing the expected 46 new MiG-29M fighter jets?

Despite the various speculations on the aircraft buyers, official confirmation remains elusive. The jets are being built for an unspecified buyer. “Only a shareholder’s report released by a MiG component supplier has confirmed that the order is real, “reported the Moscow Times.

The newspaper also reported that the document outlines a deal for 92 engines used in the MiG-29. With two engines in each fighter, the contract corresponds with reports of a 46-fighter contract in the works.

Hints in the Russian press have suggested that Egypt could be on the receiving end of the deal that could be completed by 2018.Russia has looked to Egypt and other nations including China and India in recent years as markets for its military equipment.

In this context, the leading candidate for the 46 MiGs is Egypt. Speculation is largely fueled by various statements from Russian defense industry officials at trade shows and press conferences over the past year. The official line is that the MiGs are going to North Africa and that the exact customer cannot yet be named. Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper in May last year reported that the jets were going to Egypt as part of a $3.5 billion arms deal signed by President Vladimir Putin and Abdel al-Sisi in April 2015.In addition, an earlier Egyptian media report said the Egypt’s minister of military production traveled to Moscow in March to discuss military cooperation.

In the past few years, Moscow has been working to solidify its role as partner and arms dealer to Sisi’s government.Relations between Moscow and Cairo have grown closer since al-Sisi took office in June 2014.

After al-Sisi’s military coup in 2013,Egypt adopted a policy of diversified defense imports. Historically, it has maintained an air force that is part French, part American, and part Russian. The United States recently partially restored defense ties with Sisi, delivering a dozen F-16 fighters. France too began deliveries last year of new jets to Egypt. Egypt’s force of aging MiGs is due for replacement.

In addition, Iran has also been mentioned as a potential partner in the deal. But any weapons deal with Tehran could be difficult as it could be vetoed by the UN Security Council for the next five years – something that could complicate a Russian-Iranian MiG deal.

The Moscow Times reported,” MiGs could theoretically be going to Syria, but it is not clear how Assad’s embattled government could afford them. India too traditionally buys Russian aircraft, but its bulk orders typically go to Sukhoi, stipulate localized production to some extent, and MiG has already lost out on a major fighter jet tender in India. China, which also buys Russian hardware, does not appear to have a need for fighters like the MiG-29 – a light multi-role fighter jet.”