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Tuesday, January 9, 2018
A must read: The Egyptian Military Buildup: An Enigma

[As Dr. Henkin warns, don't rule out the risks of an unforeseen regime
The Egyptian Military Buildup: An Enigma
Dr. Yagil Henkin
Military historian, specializing in urban warfare and counterinsurgency.

The ongoing Egyptian military buildup is an enigma. It is an impressive
effort in terms of budget, acquisition of modern weaponry, and training. But
why is Egypt investing so heavily in its military? Israel has to be wary,
even though a military confrontation with Egypt is not expected.

07.01.2018 Read Hebrew version
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Traditionally, Egypt has been one of the most important countries in the
Middle East. In ancient times the Egyptian kingdoms played an important role
in the history of the region in general and in the history of the Jewish
people in particular. In the modern era, after gaining independence from
Britain and after the “Free Officers” revolution in 1952, Egypt became a
contender for leadership of the Arab world, sometimes competing for the
title with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In recent decades, however, Egypt’s
influence has declined greatly. This is due to economic weakness, the price
paid by Egypt for its peace treaty with Israel, and Egypt’s transition to an
American foreign policy orientation.

Although the peace agreement and the American orientation bore many economic
advantages, the hostile response to the agreement in the Arab world damaged
Egypt’s regional standing, especially given the fact that the country did
not have large oil reserves.

The peace agreement has proved to be very stable, despite a number of low
points in relations between Egypt and Israel over the years. It has remained
in effect for more than 35 years, in spite of various crises – from the
Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor to the Second Intifada. Even the
short reign of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt did not lead to abolition of
the peace accord.

The Israel-Egypt peace agreement has proved to be very stable.

Egypt has never ceased to see itself as an important country. To a certain
extent, the current, significant Egyptian military buildup stems from this
self-conception. But Egypt has not seen a ‘natural’ enemy on its borders for
years, and the puzzle of ‘why Egypt needs this army?’ continues to be

The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyze Egypt’s military
buildup over the last decade, particularly since President el-Sisi came into
power in July 2013. The objective is not to claim that Egypt is planning a
confrontation with one country or another, but to review her capabilities,
her actions and the possibilities that arise from them.

This paper is divided into several parts. The first covers budgets and the
army’s place in Egypt’s economy. The second part looks at the status of the
Egyptian army today. The third section examines the buildup of
infrastructures. The fourth section evaluates the training exercises of the
Egyptian army. The last section discusses possible explanations for the
buildup and considers its implications.

A. Budget and Economy

In many countries, the army becomes an economic ‘player’. This is the case
in Egypt, where in 2008 the American Embassy defined the army as a
“quasi-commercial’ enterprise”.2 One researcher elaborated that the Egyptian
army enjoys economic benefits such as “subsidized fuel inputs, control over
lucrative real estate […] preferential access to state contracts, and the
use of special permits to exercise extralegal oversight in sectors ranging
from petrochemicals to tourism.3” (It should be mentioned that during
Mubarak’s final years the army’s economic situation was neglected, and it
appears to have improved under el-Sisi). An example of this is the huge
commercial center established by the Egyptian army in 2013 in the Suez
region, where it sold products, both imported and Egyptian, at reduced

The Egyptian army’s economic power has been restored under el-Sisi.

It is hard to tell exactly what part the army plays in the Egyptian economy.
The army itself claimed in 2014 that revenues from various military
industries accounted for less than one percent of Egypt’s GDP. Various
experts have assessed the real portion as between five and sixty percent – a
gap which means that it is difficult to formulate precise data on the
involvement of the army in the Egyptian economy, apart from the fact that it
exists and is recognized.5 The army’s budget itself is also unclear. For
instance, Egypt’s defense budget was estimated at $ 5.5 billion in 2015,
however, Egypt’s purchases from France alone in that year amounted to nearly
6.2 billion Euros.6 While such procurement is not paid in one year, such
huge amounts to only one of Egypt’s suppliers indicate that the reported
defense budget apparently does not include all acquisitions.

In order to better understand the financial meaning of such deals, let’s
demonstrate this by a comparison to an Israeli deal. The Israeli F-35
purchase of 50 aircraft over a period of several years was estimated at $
7.5 billion7 which is approximately half of Israel’s estimated defense
budget for one year, if we disregard the share of the US aid budget in the
deal. The submarine contract (which at the time of writing this article is
the focus of a police investigation) is approximately $ 1.5 billion. In
other words, the payment for both major deals which Israel has signed, whose
payments have been distributed over several years, together make up about
two thirds of her annual defense budget. In contrast, only part of Egypt’s
acquisitions in 2015 cost more than the country’s entire annual defense

It appears that Egypt has additional resources to those specified in the
budget. Since Egypt has also succeeded at the same time to expand the
“Mohammed Naguib” military base complex near Alexandria and to build various
large-scale infrastructure projects (as described below), its economic
obligations are indeed unusually large in relation to the official defense
budget, indicating that the figures in the official budget are not correct,
or that certain factors, such as foreign aid, are ignored. This is also
reflected in a statement made by President el-Sisi in 2015 that France
loaned Egypt 3.2 billion Euros in order to finance an arms deal between the
two countries.8

B. The Egyptian Army Today

The Egyptian Army’s ground forces are built as a heavy mechanized force,
mainly intended for large-scale combat maneuvers and not as expeditionary
forces or for fighting with light, mobile forces against irregular enemy.9
They are organized in regional headquarters which hold both armored and
mechanized divisions.

The Egyptian Army is intended to be a ground force and not an expeditionary
force or a force for combat against unorganized forces.

In comparison to 2010, the number and type of its units has not changed
significantly. In 2010 and in 2016 Egypt had four armored divisions; in 2016
the number of mechanized divisions grew from seven to eight; the number of
artillery regiments remained at 15; the number of airborne brigades has
remained three; special forces have not changed; and so on. The estimated
number of its manpower may have even decreased slightly from 468,000 to
438,000, but since more than one estimate was given in 2010, the 2016
estimate may just be more accurate. Alternatively, because there are
indications of a different trend (as shown below), it is possible that the
assessments presented are not a true appraisal of the strength of the
Egyptian army.10

Even if we do not have information on new units, we can identify processes
of modernization and a significant buildup of Egypt’s military forces. While
in 2010 it was claimed that the Egyptian army had 973 modern M1 Abrams
tanks, in 2016, the number mentioned by the same source was approximately
1,360 (almost three times the estimated number of the IDF’s regular
(non-reserve) tank arsenal at that time).11 In addition, it was reported
that Egypt intends to assemble Russian T-90 tanks in a factory to be built
in her territory.12 Earlier reports talked of approximately 400 to 500 such

In the field of troop carriers, Egypt purchased 762 MRAP (Mine Resistant
Ambush Protected armored trucks) from the United States, of the kind that
have proven themselves in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have already
been used in fighting against ISIS forces in the Sinai, and a rough
calculation will show they are capable of carrying the infantry of an entire
mechanized division. An unknown number of Egyptian-made Timsah MRAPs that
have already been observed in the Sinai Peninsula must be added, as well as
the purchase of 130 military transport trucks from the Czech company, Tatra.
Negotiations are conducted for a further order of 220 trucks.13

In addition, Egypt is interested in upgrading or replacing its artillery
systems. By mid-2017, it issued a request for proposals for 155 mm artillery
systems from Russia, South Africa, South Korea and France.14

Egypt also purchased S-300VM (Antey-2500) antiaircraft systems from Russia,
a downgraded export version with an operational range of at least 200 km and
missile interception capabilities (Egypt expressed interest in the newer
S?400 systems as well as in the newest generation of the ‘BUK’ missile
systems, but for the moment the cost of the S-400 proved prohibitive).
According to Russian sources, the scope of the deal is about $ 1 billion,
and the Egyptians plan to equip three battalions – a full air defense
regiment. The first of these systems were supplied to Egypt in the middle of
2017. They joined the short and medium-range BUK-M2E and TOR?1 / TOR-2
missiles purchased by the Egyptians in recent years from Russia,15 and
seventy-five Avenger US-made antiaircraft launchers purchased a decade ago
(In 2016-2017, Egypt made an unusual use of the system, which is actually a
mobile version of the ‘Stinger’ shoulder missile: she anchored “Humvee”
(“Hummer”) vehicles armed with missiles on board the new helicopter carriers
that she purchased).16 However, in Egyptian military exercises one can still
see widespread use of outdated anti-aircraft systems.

The Egyptian Army maintains a unique focus, at least for the Middle East, on
air defense forces. These constitute a separate arm, and are estimated at
80,000 soldiers and 70,000 reserve soldiers, almost a sixth of the Egyptian
regular army and reserves, in all branches (not including paramilitary
forces and internal forces).17 This does not include the anti-aircraft
defense that every division has – two air defense battalions. One can guess
that the massive Egyptian reliance on air defense forces is related to the
fact that during the 1973 war, the Egyptian Air Defense was more successful
than the Egyptian Air Force.

The Egyptian Army continues to maintain a unique focus on air defense

If Egypt completes the construction of the planned nuclear reactor at el-Dab’a
in the Marsa-Matruh area,18 it is reasonable to assume that the S-300
missiles will protect it. However, the number of missiles purchased –
especially if the missiles are the longer-range models, capable of reaching
350 kilometers or more – provides not only protection of specific critical
infrastructure, but also long-range air protection. A battery of the
longer-range model can be placed near the Suez Canal, where it can engage
targets all over the Sinai Peninsula and even in parts of Israel.

Israel was divided on the S-300 missile deal. An anonymous source expressed
concern that these anti-aircraft systems had nothing to do with the fight
against terror, but the then-Israel Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Amir
Eshel, responded to the question regarding this matter: “Are you kidding me?
We’re at peace with them (the Egyptians).”19

The modernization is even more pronounced in the air and sea forces. The
number of American F-16 aircrafts over the past decade has grown from 151
(of which 113 are relatively modern C/D models) to 208 or 220 (of which at
least 177 are modern). In addition, Egypt is diversifying its sources of
procurement. For example, it purchased some 50 MiG-29s of the advanced M2
model (the deal, worth $ 2 billion, is expected to be completed by 2020. The
first MiGs in the Egyptian Air Force were spotted in April 2017), and at
least 24 French Raphael fighters in 2015, the first of which landed in Egypt
less than a year after the signing of the deal. 20

By the end of this re-equipping, Egypt will retain one of the largest modern
air forces in the Middle East, although Israel will still maintain a more
advanced air force, including stealth fighters.

Helicopters, too, were on this shopping spree. Forty-six Apache attack
helicopters (ten of which are of the advanced Apache Longbow model, were
supplied in 2014) are joined by same number of advanced Russian made KA-52
attack helicopters. The first ones were observed in mid 2017 and were
delivered to Egypt shortly after.21 Egypt also purchased from China an
unknown number of Wing Loong armed UAVs, which are very useful for attacks
against ISIS in the Sinai and have already seen operational use.22

Modernization is evident in Egypt’s air and sea forces.

There have also been significant developments in the naval sector, all after
Morsi was ousted and el-Sisi took power: in 2014, Egypt signed a €1 billion
contract with France for the construction of four”Gowind-2500? corvettes of
about 2,500 tons for Egypt. A year later, it added a contract for a
six-thousand-ton frigate (which has already been supplied), and two
Mistral-class helicopter carriers (see below). They were joined in 2016 by
contracts for two more corvettes, two patrol boats (and a communications
satellite).23 In 2016 German 209/1400 submarines (more or less equivalent to
Israel’s first generation ‘Dolphin’ submarines) began to replace the aging
Chinese-made ‘Romeo’ submarines. It should be noted that this deal, although
supplied during a-Sisi’s presidency, was signed back in 2012. In addition,
the Russians supplied a new small 550ton P-32 missile corvette, armed with
supersonic Moskit anti-ship missiles, in June 2016.

These ships join a wide range of older but still active ships, such as the
four frigates from the American Oliver Hazard Perry series (4,200 tons) or
four lightweight (600 ton) and speedy (41-knot) ships from the American
Ambassador III series, which are supposed to have some stealth
characteristics.24 As a result, the Egyptian navy is the second largest in
the region, after Turkey, and is far removed from its image after the 1973
war, when it was perceived to be the “Achilles’ heel of the Egypt’s

The most conspicuous acquisition, and some would say the most astonishing,
were the two 21,000 ton French Mistral-class helicopter carriers, capable of
carrying sixteen helicopters, as well as an armored battalion and an
infantry battalion. These ships were originally intended for Russia but were
frozen due to the latter’s involvement in the Crimea. As a result, the
Egyptians bought them at the price of nine hundred and fifty million Euros,
or about $ 1.06 billion at the time of purchase, compared with the $ 1.53
billion the Russians were ready to pay for them.26

This really is a bargain price, if for a moment one ignores the fact that
Egypt is in financial difficulties, or of the fact that these are the
largest ships of their kind throughout the Middle East and Africa.27 Before
this deal, no one had thought that Egypt needed this kind of ship.

The commander of the Egyptian navy explained that the ships would be used to
secure the Egyptian gas fields and to fight terrorism.28 This is quite
surprising, to say the least, because it differs radically from concepts,
such as the Israeli one, in which gas fields are protected by speedboats and
anti-missile systems, and not by attack and reconnaissance helicopters flown
from large, lightly armed helicopter carriers that are able to carry
hundreds of their soldiers and land them on their enemies’ shores, all of
which is not very relevant to protecting gas fields at sea.

The maritime and aircraft acquisitions suggest that the explanation that
Egypt is preparing for the scenario of an urban uprising like in Syria,29 is
difficult to believe, since it focuses largely on measures that would be
useless in the early stages of such an uprising. If Egypt fears an urban
insurrection, it would be better to invest a lot more in UAVs and armored
light vehicles, and much less in corvettes and helicopter carriers.

Another, more logical option is that the ships were intended to enable Egypt
to deploy forces rapidly in the Gulf region, a capability she currently
lacks, since almost all of her buildup is unsuitable for rapid deployment by
sea or air.

The fact that Egypt is not dependent on a single supplier enhances her

The Egyptian buildup pattern in recent years adds complexity for Egypt. For
example, Egypt needs to maintain new aircrafts produced in the United
States, Russia and European countries – each of course requires different
spare parts, different training, and maintenance systems, which poses a
considerable burden on the Egyptian army. However, strategically speaking,
the fact that Egypt is not committed to a single supplier, but buys for
anyone who is willing to sell to her at her terms, strengthens her position.
She is not just another client dependent on one supplier, who can dictate
conditions or stop the supply of spare parts and ammunition, but rather a
customer courted by competing countries for contracts. Diversifying
procurement reduces Egypt’s dependence on its suppliers and strengthens its
ability to adopt an independent policy.

C. Infrastructure

A mere inspection of Egypt’s military power is not enough in order to
determine her military buildup. Military forces don’t just move from one
place to another. They need infrastructure; bases, roads (at least to a
limited extent) and so on. Egypt has made considerable investments in all
these areas over recent years. One of the most ambitious programs is the
Sinai Development Plan, which was designed to develop the peninsula and
integrate it further into Egypt, after decades of it being a no-man’s-land
for the most part (and as ISIS’s activity in the Sinai proves, it is still
one). This plan, which took shape in 2012 during the Muslim Brotherhood
period, includes extensive development of the Sinai; construction of many
highways; economic development; construction of factories and over a decade
the transfer of three million residents to the Sinai.

Naturally, the focus of this plan is civilian, and settlement of many
residents in the Sinai is intended for civilian development. Yet highways
also ease the movement of forces, and it appears that these roads deep into
the Sinai are more extensive than necessary for a civilian purpose. The army
is responsible for this plan, and in 2016 el-Sisi announced the allocation
of 10 billion Egyptian pounds (over one billion dollars) to the plan.30

In recent years there has been considerable Egyptian investment in

Beside these plans, Egypt has more far-reaching development plans, such as
plans to triple the capacity of Egypt’s ports, especially Port Said at the
northern end of the Suez Canal, improvement of the infrastructure of the
roads and railways in Egypt as a whole, and especially in the Cairo

One Egyptian plan, bordering on science fiction, calls for the construction
of a new city for five million residents between Suez and Cairo, with jobs
for everyone and all necessary infrastructures, within just a few years at a
cost of £ 30 billion.31 This plan was not left lying on the drawing board,
and is being realized.

It is not clear from where the financing for these ambitious plans that cost
billions of dollars will come. The “New Suez Canal” was financed by bonds.
There are reports of aid from the Gulf States. Nevertheless, the scale of
development is huge, and the rulers of Egypt must of course hope that the
events that took place in Egypt after the digging of the Suez Canal in the
19th century will not repeat themselves. Then they had to sell their shares
to repay debts.

In light of Egypt’s success with constructing the new Suez Canal in the
record time of a year, doubling its capacity (even if the economic results
have so far been disappointing32) as well as expensive projects such as the
expansion of the Mohammed Naguib base near Alexandria, which according to
the Egyptians is the largest military base in the Middle East, it is evident
that Egypt’s engineering capabilities should not be underestimated.33

In 2017, Egypt’s Al-Ahram reported about a dozen development programs in
Sinai valued at $ 1.5 billion. In addition, it was reported that with the
help of the Engineering Authority of the [Egyptian] Armed Forces progress is
being made with construction of seven more tunnels, some for cars and some
for trains, under the Suez Canal, in the Port Said and Ismailia areas (in
addition to the Ahmed Hamdi tunnel in the south of the Suez Canal), at a
cost of $ 4 billion, planned to be completed by 2020.34 The schedule seems
extremely optimistic.

These plans will not only be useful if the Sinai region becomes settled, but
will also allow military forces to deploy there much more quickly than
before. Some of the canals were apparently intended to solve the problem
created by the ‘New Suez Canal’, which has cut off the el Fierdan bridge,
thus disconnecting Port Fuad’s container port from mainland Egypt. Another
part was apparently intended to provide a solution for the future expansion
of the Port Said port.

However, it is still difficult to find a civil reason justifying the
construction of all seven different tunnels, when at the moment or in the
near future there is not much of an infrastructure in the Sinai that will
make their use economically viable.

It is difficult to find a civilian explanation justifying the construction
of seven tunnels under the Suez Canal.

In contrast to the plans mentioned, part of the development appears to be
clearly for military purposes. An examination of satellite imagery shows
that Egypt has been building, especially since 2014, extensive warehouses
scattered throughout the Cairo-Suez area. Those sites have signs of military
installations,35 and when activity is observed – it looks military. In
addition, several new military camps able to house more than a brigade, are
being built in various parts of Egypt.36

A more prominent example is the development of the Maliz (Bir Gifgafa)
Airfield in Sinai. According to the peace treaty with Israel, Egypt is
prohibited from placing fighter planes in the Sinai. In the entire “B” Area,
which includes the aforementioned airport, Egypt is permitted to hold eight
unarmed transport aircraft at the same time.37 Over the years since the
peace agreement was signed, Bir Gifgafa has almost been deserted, but in
2015-2017 satellite images show extensive work, some of which is of a
strictly military nature. As of now, it’s hard to find any large civilian
population nearby, which may use its facilities, nor is it a popular tourist
destination. Yet, all the runways were made operational again, and new
runways were constructed as well as an infrastructure for what looks like a
new terminal. Moreover, eight fortified hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) and
five clearly military open aircraft parking spaces, protected by earth
mounds, are also being built.

Bir Gifgafa is not an exception. Six HASs and two battalion-sized camps were
also built at the airport in El Arish and its vicinity. This construction is
part of the more extensive construction of military aviation infrastructure.
As counted by Lt. Col. (res.) Eli Dekel, former Head of the terrain
analysis branch in the IDF’s Military Intelligence Corps, in the decade
prior to September 2017, the Egyptians built or put into use six runways and
88 HAS’s in the Cairo-Sinai area (including the Cairo West airport).38 Of
course, outside of the Sinai, there is no legal limit on the Egyptian
ability to build military infrastructure. But Egypt is also building them
inside the Sinai. The extensions to the airports are built in a standard
format (an additional runway and a passenger terminal),39 and indeed Egypt
sometimes reported these extensions as being intended for civilian use.
However, while at Hurghada Airport we do see the use of civilian terminals,
at other airports (such as Cairo West and Katameya) there is no such
activity. Although Egypt has many military airports in its territory, the
expansions are not divided equally; the building boom has been only in
airports from Cairo and eastward to the Sinai.

The building boom has been only in airports from Cairo and eastward.

In addition, Egypt built huge fuel reservoirs, some of which are
camouflaged, and again this is far beyond the civilian needs in the Sinai.
Some of the reservoirs are, according to the photographs, on a scale capable
of serving an army, and some of them are strategic reservoirs of many
millions of liters. For example, a reservoir was built in Serapeum, that
holds an estimated 25 million liters,40 which may be an anterior reservoir
belonging to the Second Army, which is in charge of this zone. In addition,
Egypt is building many strategic fuel reservoirs. As part of her
preparations for the Yom Kippur War, Egypt built ten such reservoirs, from
Sidi Barrani on the Libyan border to the Suez Canal. From 1973 to 2010,
three fuel sites had been added to them, west of the Suez Canal, two of
which, according to the same estimate, hold 50 million liters and one is
twice that size. Since 2010 construction of at least three even larger
reservoirs has begun.

For example, at the western exit of the Egyptian Mitla road, a dozen large
reservoir tanks, each about 40 m in diameter, were dug out in 2015.41 In
North Katameya and Ismailia – a farm with six reservoir tanks each. It is
hardly possible that some of the tanks are connected to the production of
Egyptian gas. Their location seems too far away for this, they do not
resemble liquid gas tanks, and unlike other tanks (such as the huge fuel
tanks in the Suez) they are underground. It’s also hard to understand why
suddenly such large new fuel reserves are needed. This is so especially in
Katameya, for example, where there already are two civilian tank farms, or
the reservoir near El-Shat, about 2.7 kilometers from the canal, which is
about 10 kilometers as the crow flies from the production facilities and the
vast tank farm in Suez; too close to justify a separate reservoir, and too
distant to be part of the Suez facilities. If this was a civilian
installation, it is reasonable to assume that it would be located near the
port, and not a few kilometers from it on the other side of the canal.

It is possible that some of the reservoirs are intended for jet fuel, but
this is only a guess. It is possible that one day some of the airports and
reservoirs will serve a future Russian presence, but this is also
speculation. (There are reports that Egypt and Russia are working on a
base-sharing agreement.)42

While it is possible to believe that part of the development of the fuel
reservoirs is for civilian purposes, even if it seems excessive for Egypt’s
current needs and for those of the near future, the same can’t be said about
the stockpiles of ammunition in the Sinai. An examination of satellite
images since 2007 shows that all the ammunition depots have grown
considerably, and that new and sometimes larger ammunition bunkers have been

Finally, we can point to an increase in the numbers of Egyptian tank
transporters and the number of military bases of the tank transport units.
Since 2010 three such bases have been built, which together have a capacity
of some 720 transporters, although one of them, built in the vast expansion
of the ‘Mohammed Najib’ base near Alexandria, may only be partly occupied,
and the second seems to be still unmanned.44 It is hard to find a reason for
this step, but its military implications are clear: Egypt is significantly
improving its ability to mobilize large forces very quickly. For the sake of
comparison, it was recently reported that the IDF is buying 90 new tank
transporters from Navistar, which join more than 100 Volvo tank transporters
that were purchased in 2012.45 These will replace the old-fashioned tank
transporters that the IDF has been using since the 1970s.

Even if the IDF has additional trucks for other uses, which can serve also
as tank transporters in case of an emergency, it is still clear that the
Egyptian army has a much greater transport capacity than the IDF, and that
Egyptian capacity has increased it recently. Given the fact that armored
MRAP trucks are capable of moving on roads like any other vehicle, thus
decreasing the use of tank transporters, this capacity enables Egypt to move
several divisions at once – considering road limitations. As stated above,
the Sinai development plans will greatly ease those limitations.

There is an increase in the number of tanks, and bases used for their

In contrast to the investment in airports, storage complexes and ammunition
bunkers, it is clear that Egypt is not investing in defensive infrastructure
on the Sinai front. The large defense complexes in the Rephidim (Bir
Gifgafa) area, which were built after Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai, have
not been maintained, and some of them have almost disappeared under the sand
or disintegrated.46 This does not indicate a change in combat doctrine. At
the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, the Egyptians built a new
training area in the area east of Cairo west Airport. This area includes a
totally new “steering wheel” outpost, named after its shape, the same kind
that was neglected in Rephidim.47 Egypt is manning similar outposts on the
Libyan border, but it seems that none of its neighbors is using this kind of

Egypt is not investing in defensive infrastructure in the Sinai.

Furthermore, since 2014, Egypt has set up outposts on the Israeli border, in
coordination with Israel, to assist with confronting Hamas and ISIS in the
Sinai.48 However, these outposts are meant to defend troops against
irregular forces coming from Sinai rather than an organized defense against
an army like in Rephidim, and they have no similarity to the “steering
wheel” design. Therefore, the establishment of the training post shows the
fact that Egypt not only uses the “steering wheel” outposts but plans on
doing so in the future; it has no need to train its forces to attack such
fortification, for almost no one else has them.

In other words, Egypt is not worried that Israel will attack and conquer the
Sinai Peninsula. The military infrastructure is not intended for obstructing
such a possibility. The newly-constructed Egyptian military infrastructure
reinforces the deployment capability, increases the amount of ammunition
stored, as well as fuel and other equipment – but it does not see the need
to maintain defensive infrastructure.

D. Training

The third link in the puzzle is training and military exercises. Naturally,
an unskilled army with sophisticated equipment is less efficient than a
skilled army with the same equipment, and usually also less so than a
well-trained army with less sophisticated equipment.

The Egyptian army’s training has traditionally been viewed as mediocre, even
if – as was seen in the Yom Kippur War – it was capable of successful
planning and carrying out original and effective operational plans. On the
tactical level there was no doubt that after the well-executed combat
crossing of the Suez canal, its combat performance was not particularly
efficient.49 The dismal failures of Egypt’s elite Unit 777’s attempt to
rescue flight 648 in 1985, as well as the botched Larnaca raid in 1978, only
reinforced this image.50 At the end of the 1990s, an American officer and
researcher noted a lack of initiative and motivation, a rigid centralized
command structure, poor training, and other problems in the Egyptian Army.51
Some of this has remained this day. Testimonies still indicate a low level
of at least some of the Egyptian forces, and there is evidence of corruption
and of recruits who serve in non-military positions, similar to the past.52

However, Egypt has made a considerable effort to improve. In recent years,
the Egyptian army has carried out extensive maneuvers, including full-scale
division exercises, in which all soldiers in the participating units took
part, together with their tanks and vehicles. (The IDF allegedly has not
conducted such an exercise for many years). Thus, for example, in the annual
‘Raed 27’ exercise in May 2017 the entire 9th Armored Division trained with
live ammunition.53

In recent years, the Egyptian army has carried out large exercises.

The exercises have been on the rise in recent years. The Badr 2014 exercise
was, according to Egypt, the largest since 1996. It was defensive in nature
but it included offensive parts, including a combat crossing of the Suez
Canal, along with a simultaneous naval exercise that included diverse
subjects from combating smugglers and pirates to anti-submarine warfare.54
The “Raed 24” exercise of 2015 focused on fighting on the Libyan front.55
Even before that, the Egyptians conducted exercises on subjects like
crossing the Suez Canal or large live-fire exercises,56 but the scope of the
exercises seem to have increased, at least according to the media coverage
and the huge parades accompanying them, where a full division can be seen
standing to attention, with its vehicles and weapons all present.57

In addition, Egypt continues its traditional exercises with other countries,
and adds some new ones. The biennial joint American- Egyptian military
exercise “Bright Star” was held again in 2017, after being cancelled by the
Obama administration in 2011, following the Egyptian revolution. Over the
past five years, joint training exercises have been held with Jordan’s
special forces; Egypt made parachute drops and house-clearing joint
exercises with Russian paratroopers and special forces; an Egyptian unit was
sent to Russia to train with Russian forces; Egyptian ships trained with
Russian ships; the military has trained with forces from the United Arab
Emirates and Bahrain, with the Greek Air Force and Navy; and the Greek
defense minister recently even declared a joint exercise with the Greek and
Israeli air forces.

In any event, it is clear that the Egyptian military is training more than
in the past, and with many more countries.58 Building large training
facilities, including for combat in built up areas, is also an indication of

E. Possible Explanations

Piecing together the information about the military buildup, the
infrastructure and the training exercises, indicates that the Egyptian army
is undergoing considerable reform, and that Egypt is boosting its military
capabilities. The military is purchasing newer equipment. The government is
building new military infrastructure and dual-use infrastructure, mostly
within the area from the Sinai to Cairo. Some of this infrastructure is
apparently meant to enable fast deployment of troops to the Sinai, including
aircraft, and to supply them without the need for supply convoys having to
travel hundreds of kilometers.

Increasing the number of the tank transporters will also enable rapid
deployment, as will the hundreds of new mine protected trucks that have
joined Egypt’s Fahd wheeled armored personnel carriers. The extensive
training of the various branches, and in particular, the extensive joint
exercises, indicate that the military is determined to preserve significant
“conventional” large scale military capability, that is the ability to fight
armored battles against other armies.

It’s hard to tell what’s driving the Egyptian military buildup. The buildup
could be a disturbing sign. However, it does not prove any certain intention
on Egypt’s part. There are many possible reasons for a military buildup,

- Buildup for the purpose of preserving its status in the Arab world, both
as a means of balancing its economic weakness and due to the “arms race” in
the Persian Gulf, which was largely caused by the Gulf States’ fear of the
Iranians60 (even though the Saudis purchased less arms in 2016, in contrast
to the sharp increase of previous years);61

-Creating an infrastructure for future Russian deployment;

- Preparations for a conflict with Israel or for the re-militarization of
the Sinai;62

- Strengthening the internal status of the government and the ruling class,
in a country in which the army is, in many ways, the State itself.

Each thesis is possible, but it is difficult to know which, if any of these
explanations, is the reason for the Egyptian military buildup.

President el-Sisi has stated that he is not afraid of an invasion because no
organized army is threatening Egypt, but that Egypt needs a big army due to
the unstable situation and the “vacuum” in the Middle East. According to his
statements, the Egyptian buildup partially can be interpreted as a force for
the rapid deployment of troops throughout the Middle East. Sisi has indeed
declared his support of a united Arab force to deal with problems in the
Middle East, and said that Egypt will play a part in this force.63

Acquiring the “Mistral” ships may be part of this, because they provide the
ability to deploy a number of battalions to a distant target at short
notice, including dozens of armored vehicles.

However, the bulk of the Egyptian army is built as a heavy mechanized and
armored army, and will not be able to quickly reach other countries, from
Libya to Saudi Arabia.

If, for example, Egypt wishes to intervene in Libya,64 she can deploy a
light expeditionary force using light infantry units, MRAP trucks, and
various types of wheeled armored personnel carriers. After that, on a much
longer timetable, it will be able to bring the tank divisions, moved by
train (where possible) or by tank transporters65 – and the timetable will be
extended further, because unlike in the canal area, it does not appear that
the Egyptians are preparing reservoirs or supply bases that will support
such a move.

In other words, while the Egyptian army can relatively easily (if we ignore
the difficulties that they are presently facing with ISIS) transfer large
forces deep into the Sinai and toward the Israeli border, an attempt to
transfer them to Libya or Sudan will meet with many more logistical
difficulties. The new submarines, of course, have multiple uses. They may
provide capabilities against any navy, from the Iranian to the Israeli Navy,
from commando deployment to anti-ship attacks.

The reasons for the buildup are sometimes related to the role of the army in
the country.

The reasons for the buildup are often related to the role of the army in the
country. Not all armies serve the same purpose.66 Sometimes internal reasons
(demonstrating power in order to awe opponents, controlling the country,
supporting an officer class, etc.) will have a greater influence than the
need to contend with an external enemy. Likewise, external reasons are not
always “preparations for war.”

Traditionally, the status of a country was measured also by the size of
their forces, and regional commitments can also affect the force structure
and buildup. Luxembourg, for example, has a battalion-size army that, of
course, cannot prevent or delay any invasion by any of its neighbors for
more than a few hours, and an air force composed entirely of early warning
aircraft – all within the framework of NATO membership.

Acquisition of weapons can also be connected to the army’s status in a
society or the ability of its officials to derive a large profit from it,
and not necessarily for any sort of operational planning.

Therefore, surveying Egypt’s abilities is not sufficient in order to
understand her intentions. An analysis of the neighbors’ intentions is
necessary – but it is not sufficient either.

As Major General (res.) Amos Yadlin, former commander of Israel’s
intelligence branch has said, “If we prepare to confront the enemy’s
capabilities, the IDF will need double the forces, deployed on high alert
365 days a year along the borders of the State of Israel”67 However, since
identification of irregular movements is the identification of ‘capabilities’,
it seems that in practice the IDF could make do with smaller forces, but
will need a rapid reaction time and total army mobilization whenever such a
movement is identified.


While it is not possible to know at this point what the goal is of Egypt’s
recent significant military buildup, the buildup itself speaks volumes. A
comprehensive military buildup that involves the purchase of equipment, the
improvement of infrastructure, and the enhancement of training – creates a
new situation and forces neighboring countries to relate.

It is not possible to relate to this solely on the basis of an analysis of
Egypt’s current leader’s intentions. Countries such as Israel must relate to
the buildup also on the basis of Egypt’s actions and capabilities.

It is also impossible to ignore the influence of one party’s policy –
deliberate or not – on other players in the international arena. The moment
one party aspires to become stronger, the policies of others have to take
this into account. Security is always relative. As Henry Kissinger had said,
Absolute security for one party means total insecurity for other parties.68
In other words, the catch in responding to the military build-up of a
neighboring country is that the response itself can create an arms race.

The arms race of the European navies at the end of the 19th century is an
excellent example of such dynamics. British policy, which required that its
fleet be equal in size to the next two fleets combined together, meant that
every time a foreign naval fleet expanded, the British felt compelled to
increase their fleet, which threatened foreign fleets, and so forth and so

This dynamic holds especially true for Israel, since many parts of Egyptian
society have not accepted Israel and/or remain disappointed by the
Egypt-Israel peace agreement. To a great degree, the peace remains an
agreement between states but not between societies.69

If the Muslim Brotherhood had remained in power in Egypt and had succeeded
in carrying out an Erdogan-like revolution (that is, the purging of the army
and bringing it under Brotherhood control), Israel would have found itself
concerned about much more than the army’s infrastructure buildup.

The fact that Israel recently permitted Egypt to station significant troops
in the Sinai to fight ISIS (– many more troops than allowed under the
Egypt-Israel peace agreement!) also requires Israel to pay significant
attention to the overall Egyptian buildup.

(The Egyptian president recently announced deployment of 20 battalions in
the Sinai, a force that amounts to more than 20,000 thousand soldiers
including support units. This is not the total force in Sinai, but the
newest additions).70

This author shares the widespread Israeli assessment that, under al-Sisi,
Israel and Egypt have become closer than ever; and therefore, that a
military clash between the two countries is unlikely. Nevertheless, the
Egyptian army buildup, the improvement of its force deployment capabilities,
and the large deployment of Egyptian forces in the Sinai – warrants a great
deal of attention and caution. Assessments may be wrong – and even if they
are correct at the moment, future unknown changes may change the situation
for worse.

The example of Iran, formerly a friend of Israel that has become a bitter
enemy, stands as a warning about the type of rapid changes that can occur.
(Fortunately, Iran does not directly share a border with Israel, although it
is trying to advance towards Israel through Syria).

The 19th century in Europe, as mentioned above, is another example of how
the Belle Époque (the Beautiful Era) can, in only a few years, be
transformed into an era of destructive war.

On the other hand, the twentieth century in Western Europe after the
collapse of the Soviet Union presents another possibility: A situation in
which every country is so sure that its neighbor will not attack it, so that
no country pays much attention to the question of what its neighbor buys for
its army (or even complains that its neighbor does NOT buy enough weapons,
contrary to its NATO obligations). The fact that most of the Western
European countries are members of NATO, with American backing, certainly
does not hurt.

A middle path is the example of the Israeli-Arab arms race after the 1973
war, which, as we know, has not lead to another major war.

The Middle East does not resemble Europe after the Cold War. The relations
between Israel and its neighbors are far from being similar to the relations
between Denmark and Sweden, or between France and Britain. (This is true
despite the increased cooperation between Israel and Egypt). Therefore,
Israel must be guarded regarding the Egyptian military buildup, and
especially leery regarding the possibility of the rise of an Egyptian

The Egyptian army has often carried out exercises that appear to be based on
war-with-Israel scenario. Nevertheless, the IDF should not necessarily train
directly for an ‘Egyptian contingency,’ since this would exacerbate
relations with Egypt. (Although one could ask what kind of a relationship
pertains here, when one side can train for the possibility of fighting the
other, but not vice versa).

Taking all these delicate concerns into account, the upshot is that Israel
must maintain a basic capacity for mechanized warfare against modern armies.
It must not assume that the present situation, in which Israel had a
crushing material military advantage versus its enemies (as in the Second
Lebanon War and in recent wars against Hamas), will remain the same against
other possible adversaries.

Israel must keep a careful eye on the changes in Egypt and their
implications; and, at the same time, increase cooperation with Egypt as much
as possible. Cooperation does not necessarily prevent future conflict, but
it reduces misunderstandings and creates de facto alliances. Such alliances
reduce the chances of unintentional escalation.

In other words, Israel’s great challenge is to maintain and improve
relations with Egypt, and at the same time be prepared, without causing
unintended escalation, for a situation in which the optimistic scenarios do
not materialize.

* The author thanks Eli Dekel for his extensive assistance with satellite
images of Egypt, and Alex Greenberg for his assistance with Arab sources.
The conclusions are the responsibility of the author alone. This study does
not represent any official position, and relies only on open sources.

[1] See, for example, Amnon Barzilai, “Why Does Egypt Need Such a Huge
Army?”, Haaretz, August 26, 2001.


[2] US Embassy, Cairo, Cable, 23rd September 2008, Wikileaks Public Library
of US Diplomacy, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08CAIRO2091_a.html. On
the general subject of armies and their involvement in the economy, see, for
example, Jörn Brömmelhörster and Wolf-Christian Paes (Eds.), The Military as
an Economic Actor: Soldiers in Business, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

[3] Shana Marshall, The Egyptian Armed Forces and the Remaking of an
Economic Empire, Washington DC: Carnegie Middle East Center, 2015, p. 5.

[4] The Marker, 11 April 2013,

[5] Washington Post, March 16, 2014,
. The most comprehensive experience is probably: Zeinab Abul-Magd,
Militarizing the Nation:

The Army, Business, and Revolution in Egypt, New York: Columbia University
Press, 2017.

[6] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance,
2016, p. 324, and also Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
(SIPRI), “Military expenditure by country, in constant (2015) US$ m.,
2007-2016”, 2017,
Yiftah S. Shapir and Kashish Parpiani, “Egypt Rearms”, Strategic Assessment,
Volume 19, No. 3, 2016, p 55 http://din-online.info/pdf/ad19-3.pdf.

[7] Ynet, 27 August 2017,

[8] Reuters, March 1st, 2015,

[9] This is in contrast to the process that almost every Western military
force has undergone. See, for example, Yagil Henkin, “Why do we even need an
army?” Media, 10 February 2017, http://bit.ly/2Abuhq2; Yagil Henkin, “Where
did the European armies go?”, Media, 3 March 2017,http://bit.ly/2isneiw

[10] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance,
2016, p. 324; —- The Military Balance 2010, p. 248.

[11] The estimates are not necessarily accurate. For example, in 2010, the
report claimed that Israel had 3,501 tanks, while in 2016 it estimated that
Israel had about 500 tanks (and another 1,000 in storage); since it did not
seem as if Israel had dismantled about 10 active or reserve armored
divisions in six years, (based on a historical average, a Western Armored
Division had 200-350 tanks), it can be assumed that a considerable portion
of the tanks in the 2010 report were those that had been removed from active
service years ago (and that the active tank force is concerning only
conscript units, but not reserve units). For example, the 2010 report
contained no fewer than 387 Soviet-made tanks, or an improved version of
them, despite that the fact that these tanks had been removed from service
in a previous generation was not classified at all. It is reasonable to
assume that a similar process is true too with regard to the Egyptian army.

It should be noted that the report of 2016 mistakenly stated that the total
number fell to 2,710 (compared to 3,723 in 2010), however, a separate
calculation of the number of tanks (minus 200 T-62 tanks which were counted
twice) shows that this was an error. In light of the fact that four
different divisions and another five independent brigades were observed in
Google Earth images around the Egyptian military bases on different dates,
it is likely that the total number of Abrams tanks is even greater, given
the fact that there are also tanks in storage and tanks reserved for basic
training. My thanks to Eli Dekel who showed me the locations of the

[12] TASS (English), July 5th, 2017, http://tass.com/defense/954764. The
report used code numbers to indicate the customers, and it was removed from
the net after Russian analysts were able to identify the different
countries. Jane’s, July 6th, 2017,
; Defense Web, July 7, 2017,

[13] For a picture of the Egyptian MRAP in the Sinai, see,’
https://nzivnet.com/articles/5534; Al-Ahram Online, ” Egypt receives second
shipment of MRAP vehicles from US”, September 29th, 2016,
Of the 762 MRAP vehicles, 90 are ambulances, 12 rescue vehicles and 660 are
armored personnel carriers, each one is capable of carrying ten soldiers,
including 2 crew members, Dylan Malyasov, “Egyptian company develops new
«Temsah» armored personnel carrier”, Defence Blog, October 23th, 2016,
Dylan Malyasov, “Tatra to supply trucks chassis to Jordan and Egypt”,
Defence Blog, May 4, 2016,
Defence Web, 29 April 2016,

[14] Israel Defense, July 31st 2017,
http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/30543; Defenceweb, July 24th, 2017,

[15] Tass (Russian), March 6th, 2015, http://tass.ru/armiya-i-opk/1812666;
Jeremy Binnie, “Egyptian S-300VM SAM delivery confirmed”, Jane’s Defense
Weekly, June 6th, 2017,
https://www.newsru.com/finance/20feb2017/idex2017_c400.html; Izvestia
(Russian), October 26th, 2016, https://iz.ru/news/640469

[16] In July 2017, the Egyptian Ministry of Defense published a video
displaying the system https://youtu.be/JifU42Nj9UY?t=42,

[17] The Military Balance 2016, pp. 324-325

[18] See, for example, Shaul Shay, ” The Egypt – Russia nuclear deal”, IDC
Institute for Policy and Strategy, November 2015,
Reuters, “Russia to lend Egypt $25 billion to build nuclear power plant”,
May 29, 2016,

[19] Times of Israel, May 28, 2015,

[20] The Military Balance, 2010 Ibid., 2016 Ibid. ; “Egypt”, F-16.net,
http://www.f-16.net/f-16_users_article4.html; Bilal Khan, “First Egyptian
MiG-29M2 (or MiG-35) Spotted”, Quwa, April 2, 2017,
RIA/Novosti, (Russian), November 9, 2015,
https://ria.ru/defense_safety/20151109/1317240976.html; Egypt Independent,
October 15th, 2016,
Of the Egyptian aircraft, 20 are from the relatively new Block 52, and most
of the others are from the older Block 40; The A / B models are from
old-fashioned Block 15, but all aircraft have been or are scheduled to
undergo system upgrades. Some sources, such as a Russian RIA / Novosti
report, claimed that Egypt had purchased an even more advanced MiG-35
model – but since the M-35 had just commenced regular production, at the
time of writing, this was probably a mistake.

[21] Defense Blog, June 8th, 2017,
Reuters, December 21, 2014,
TASS, July 18, 2017, http://tass.com/defense/956802. Those helicopters were
also spotted in their base in Egypt, for example:
December 31st, 2017.

[22] A photograph of an Egyptian UAV operator with the unit’s emblem, as
well as a picture taken in an Egyptian UAV hangar, was uploaded to a forum
dealing with African armies in September 2017.

[23] Al-Ahram (English), May 7, 2016,
Michel Cabirol, ” Armement : la France va signer de nouveaux contrats en
Egypte”, La Tribune, April 15th, 2016,
For comparison, the Israeli ‘Saar 5’ ships have a maximum weight of 1,200
tons, and the future ‘Saar 6’ ships will weigh about 2,000 tons. Of course
weight is a ‘rule of thumb’ and does not prove the capabilities of any ship.

[24] Shaul Shay, “Egypt’s New Modern Submarine Fleet”, Israel Defense,
December 13th, 2015,
Al-Ahram (English), August 8th, 2017,
; Sputnik News, June 25th 2016,
https://sputniknews.com/world/201606251041953909-russia-egypt-corvette ;
“USA Delivered the Last Two Ambassador MK III Fast Missile Craft (Ezzat
Class) to Egyptian Navy”, Navy Recognition, June 25th, 2015,

[25] Hillel Frisch, “Guns and Butter in the Egyptian Army”, in Barry Rubin
and Thomas E. Keany (Eds.), Armed Forces in the Middle East: Politics and
Strategy, London: Frank Cass, 2002, p. 99.

[26] US Naval Institute News, December 8th, 2014,
Reuters, September 23rd, 2015,

[27]Algeria has an amphibious assault ship, the Ba’al Abbas, which can carry
about the same number of marines but much less tanks and helicopters, and
its thrust is 8,800 tons; Turkey also has smaller LST’s (Landing Ship, Tank)
and amphibious assault ships.

[28] Egypt Daily News, October 8th, 2016,

[29] See, for example, Naeel Shama, “Egypt’s Power Game: Why Cairo is
Boosting its Military Power”, Jadaliyya, September 6th, 2017,

[30] Haaretz, 22 August 2012, https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/world/1.1806711
; Khalid Khassan, “Will Sisi fulfill his ‘Sinai promise’?”, Al-Monitor,
April 24th, 2016,
Al-Masry Al-Youm, (English), March 8th 2016,


For an official review of Egyptian national projects, see, for example,
Ahmad Abu El Hassan Zarad, “The Mega National Projects…A Locomotive of
Development”, Egypt State Information Service, n.d. (October 2016),
http://www.sis.gov.eg/section/337/4683?lang=en-us; Oxford Business Group, ”
Egypt addresses major transport infrastructure projects”, n.d. (2016),
World Highways website, “Egypt’s road programme is now restarting”, February
Egypt Daily News, May 1st, 2017,
The Guardian, March 16th, 2015,

Capital Cairo project website, http://thecapitalcairo.com/index.html /

[32] In effect, a bypass of several dozen kilometers, not an entire canal.
Work on the bypass expansion began on August 5, 2014, and on August 6, 2015,
the first ship passed. In regard to economic results, see for example,
Michel Giorgio, “El-Sisi’s ambitions sinking in the Suez Canal”, Il
Manifesto, March 30th, 2016,
Khalid Khassan, “New Suez Canal income slowly sinking”, Al Monitor,
September 11th, 2017,

[33] Globes, 28 July 2017,
https://nzivnet.com/articles/10518; For the broadcasts from the opening
ceremony, which show the enormous size of the base, see, for example, Russia
Today (Arabic), July 22nd, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYzw34zOFDo
as well as, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT3a3yJ83No. For a tour of the
base and some of its compound and characteristics, see, Masr Online, 22 July
(Arabic), 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpT3PrN-J2I. It is possible
however to make reservations and to say that the Egyptian claims are quite
exaggerated. Although extensive construction has been carried out in the
camp, the base itself is not new, and it has existed in a somewhat different
format since the early 1980s. The Egyptians’ claims regarding a new and
extensive camp were apparently intended for internal propaganda purposes. My
thanks to Eli Dekel for this comment.

[34] Al Ahram (English), January 26th, 2017,
“New Infrastructure Project at Suez Canal Takes Shape”, Dredging Today,
February 9th, 2017,
“Egypt – Tunnels under the Suez Canal”, Systra, n.d.,
“Contributing to the development of the Suez Canal area”, Arcadis Design,

[35] For example, located in the area of 30 degrees, 30 minutes 18 seconds
north by 32 degrees, 21 minutes, 42 seconds east (about 2 kilometers east of
the Suez Canal and about 11 kilometers north of the Great Bitter Lake) was a
small base with nine bunkers, and next to it is an installation with hangars
for vehicles. Starting in 2016, 11 60 x 40 m hangars were built there
(another is currently under construction), 10 three-story barracks, two
mosques and dozens of other structures and sheds which required drying up
part of the nearby swamp. Guard towers and fences around the bases can be
identified clearly.

However, there are also some atypical sites: for example, a site near Bader
City in the Cairo area, located at 30 degrees, 10 minutes, 43.68 seconds
north by 31 degrees, 45 minutes, 46.08 seconds east, which shares some
features with other military sites, however at the moment it does not appear
to be under military use and does not even have a fence around the complex.

[36]For example, an existing camp near Bader City (30 degrees, 11 minutes,
35 seconds north by 31 degrees, 47 minutes) was greatly expanded in two
stages. In the first stage, between 2005 and 2010, a camp was set up for the
forces of a mechanized brigade, at least (on April 2, 2010, at least 200
vehicles could be counted, most of them armored vehicles), and between 2010
and 2017 an additional, even bigger, compound was set up, and to the north
is a training area with tents that are erected and dismantled as needed (for
example, in August 2016 there were dozens of tents and dozens of armored
vehicles in the training area, but in April 2017 there was not a single tent
or vehicle).

[37]”Peace Treaty between the State of Israel and the Arab Republic of
Egypt”, March-April 1979, Appendix 1, Section 2-3, Knesset Website,

[38] Letter from Eli Dekel, 5 September 2017

[39] See, for example, the expansion of Katameya Airport, southeast of Bader
City, located at 30 degrees, 4 minutes, 30 seconds north, 31 degrees, 50
minutes, 6 seconds east, which had been neglected for years. In 2014-2017
its runways were repainted and covered with new Asphalt, new hardened
aircraft shelters were built, as well as a runway and terminal. However, as
of the time of writing this article, not one civil flight has been observed,
nor are they likely to be necessary. Cairo International Airport is only
about three quarters of an hour away from the aforementioned military

[40] A rule of thumb states that the height of each storage tank will be a
third of its diameter. There are occasional deviations, but on average the
rule is a good way to estimate the capacity of upright tanks (this rule does
not apply to horizontal tanks).

[41] The reservoirs are near the Croatian memorial monument at the former
El-Shatt refugee camp The camp existed between 1944-1946, it held refugees
from the Dalmatia region who had been evacuated following a German attack on
Dalmatia in 1944. The tanks are located at 30 degrees, one minute, 59.40
seconds north by 32 degrees, 36 minutes, 23.40 seconds east.

[42] This was speculated years ago; For example, on the Sunday Times in
October 27th, 2013,
for the base-sharing agreement negotiations see The New York Times, November
30th, 2017,
It is impossible to know yet if the possible agreement was the reason for
this construction – if so, it would imply that Egypt and Russia had secret
talks years ago.

[43] My thanks to Eli Dekel for drawing my attention to this. See, for
example, in the ammunition base located 13 km south west of Ismailia, on the
eastern side of the Suez Canal, at 30 degrees 30 minutes 48 seconds north 32
degrees, 24 minutes, 4.80 seconds east. In an aerial photograph from the end
of September 2004 there were 16 bunkers, it was the same in 2010. Since then
there has been a construction boom, and as of the last photograph, from
April 2016, there were 41 bunkers there.

[44] On most bases, we can count the tank transporter capacity in the
hangars by comparing Google Earth images. For example, a study of the tank
transporter base near the Cairo-Sweis road, located at 30 degrees, 6
minutes, 56.67 seconds North by 31 degrees, 29 minutes, 47.04 seconds, shows
us dozens of transporters entering and leaving the sheds over time, and
once – in February – March 2016 – a formation of no less than sixty five
trucks with transporters and many dozens of separate trucks and
transporters – this is in addition to the few dozen additional trucks and
carriers seen peeping out of the sheds. A transporter base was built in the
new Mohammed Naguib base, and in a Google Earth image from 2015 no activity
was observed. However, in an Egyptian Defense Ministry film of July 2017
dedicated to the base, other than the new buildings, we also see the
transporter sheds and in them about a dozen Renault Tank transporters
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpT3PrN-J2I, probably out of 15 purchased by
the Egyptians in 2011, (Defense Web, “Egypt buys 15 Kerax”, January 3rd,
2011, http://bit.ly/2hBlGSb. An Egyptian website claimed that at the
Mohammed Najib base there will be 450 carriers at any given moment (quoted
from Globes, 28 July 2017,
http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1001199046) and this estimate
seems reliable, since it fits with the size of the sheds.

[45] Ministry of Defense, 29 August 2017,
Yediot Ahronot, 14 May, 2015,
https://www.yediot.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4657321,00.html. The technical
term is “drag head”, but the term “semi trailer” is much more well-known.

[46] See, defense complexes about 6 kilometers north-west-west of the Meliz
airport, located at 30 degrees, 25 minutes, 17.35 seconds north, by 33
degrees, 4 minutes, 48 seconds east.

Already in 2012 in the Third Army’s exercise in the Sinai it was possible to
see that the trenches in the outpost that was filmed were so full of sand
that the upper part of the solders kneeling down in them stuck out. Channel
2, 24 April 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPyY09BeXMQ

[47] Waypoint 30 degrees, 6 minutes, 9.15 seconds north by 31 degrees, 31
minutes, 25.25 seconds east. A ‘steering wheel’ outpost is a round post,
with an inner protection ring and partitions between the sections of the
post – reminiscent of a steering wheel in its shape.

[48] See, for example, Ynet, 18 February 2014,

[49] See, for example, Kenneth M. Pollack, Arabs at War: Military
Effectiveness, 1948-1991, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002, pp.

[50] See BBC, “On This Day”, November 24, 2005,
Panagiotis Dimitrakis, “The 1978 Battle of Larnaca Airport, Cyprus, and UK
Diplomacy”, Middle East Review of International Affairs, June 7th, 2009,

[51] Norvell B. De Atkine, “Why Arabs Lose Wars”, Middle East Quarterly,
December 1999, http://www.meforum.org/441/why-arabs-lose-wars

[52] For example, in 2015 an Egyptian Army deserter claimed that many
soldiers only receive basic training. Emily Crane Linn, “After Fleeing the
Army, One Egyptian Soldier Witnessed a Massacre”, War is Boring website,
August 24th, 2015,
. Egypt Daily News, November 26th, 2016,
https://dailynewsegypt.com/2016/11/26/601291 ; Aziz al-Afandi, “Conscripts
with connections get easy military service in Egypt”, The New Arab, April
6th, 2015,
Although some of the sources are biased, the similarity between phenomena
described above by De Atkine and the above descriptions hint at a
continuation of the phenomena.

[53] Egyptian Ministry of Defense, May 17th 2017,
https://youtu.be/IuHtGtL9OgE. Even though the captions accompanying the
films released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense said that the Defense
Minister had reviewed the division after its capabilities and equipment were
upgraded, in the video itself one can see outdated vehicles next to the
‘Abrams tanks’ , including Chaparral antiaircraft launchers which were
removed from US military service two decades ago.

[54] Al-Ahram (English), October 20th, 2014,
Shaul Shay, “Egypt: The “Badr 2014? Military Exercise”, December 5th, 2014,
Al-Ahram (English), October 29th, 2014, http://bit.ly/2j4CyRS

[55] Shaul Shay, ” Egypt’s Annual Exercise and the Libyan Border”, Israel
Defense, November 8th, 2015,

[56] See, for example, Channel 2, 24 April 2012,

[57] Egypt’s official news service claimed that “Ra’ed 27” was the “largest”
exercise, but did not elaborate. It seems that this is more about the public
relations version of “very big” than directly comparing it to other Egypt,
State Information Service, May 12th, 2017,

[58] Michael Battles, “U.S., Egypt kick off Exercise Bright Star 2017”, U.S.
Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs, September 13th, 2017,
;Ynet, 24 October 2016,
http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4869670,00.html; Ami Rochas Domba,
“Joint Russian-Egyptian exercise on Egyptian soil”, Israel Defense, 16
October 2016, http://bit.ly/2ATg2To ; Al Ahram (English), October 12th,
Shaul Shay, Exercise “Protectors of Friendship 2? And the Egyptian-Russian
Strategic Relations”, Israel Defense, September 26th, 2017,
http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/31239 ; Egypt Daily News, June 25th,
Arab Sensor, August 3, 2017,
http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4869670,00.html; Egypt, Ministry of
Defense, August 1st, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nscx8pdgx3M Ami
Rochas Domba, “Report: Israel , Egypt, Greece to conduct joint drill“,
Israel Defense, 3 October 2017, http://www.israeldefense.co.il/he/node/31306

[59] For example, a new training facility was built in mid 2013, a few
kilometers north of the remains of the Dahar-el-Baida Palace and Katameya
Airport, located at 30 degrees, 10 minutes, 42.55 seconds north, 31 degrees,
51 minutes, 48 seconds east. Before this construction there were tank
covered fighting positions, perhaps for live-fire training, but there were
no permanent buildings. A permanent camp was greatly expanded about seven
kilometers west of it.

[60] See, for example, Naeel Shama, “Egypt’s Power Game: Why Cairo is
Boosting its Military Power”, Jadaliyya, September 6th, 2017,
Richard Spencer, “Gulf arms race triggered by Iranian aggression”, The
Telegraph, 22 November 2009,

[61] See, Nan Tian et. Al, Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2016,
SIPRI, April 2017,
The Military Balance, 2016, p. 317 Map 6.

[62] The supporters of this theory include Lt. Col. (res.) Eli Dekel, in a
conversation with the author, and Ehud Eilam, whose book, The Next War
between Israel and Egypt: Examining a High-intensity War between Two of the
Strongest Militaries in the Middle East (London, Valentine Mitchell, 2014),
describes a scenario of high-intensity fighting between Israel and Egypt,
and claims that Israel will encounter many difficulties in the event of such
a war, despite its technological superiority. Also see, Uri Milstein, “40
Years Since Sadat’s Visit: Will Common Interests Keep Peace?”, Maariv, 17
November 2017, http://www.maariv.co.il/news/politics/Article-609158

[63] Alhaya (Arabic), April 26th, 2017,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2Oww5GNqBE; The Guardian, March 28th, 2015,

[64] Egypt has conducted airstrikes in Libya in the past, and during the
course of 2017, reports of Egyptian destruction of smuggled arms convoys
from Libya were published on various occasions. The New Arab, May 9th, 2017,
AP, October 23rd, 2017,

[65] The roads that connect Egypt with Libya are two-way roads and it is
possible to transfer on them deliveries of a large amount of supplies for
large units without running into any special problems. The rail line from
Cairo to Mersa-Metrouh can of course transport large military forces.

[66] See, for example, Elizabeth Kier, “Culture and the French Military
Doctrine Before WWII”, in Peter Katzenstein (Ed.), “The Culture of National
Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics”, New York: Columbia
University Press, 1996

[67] Amos Yadlin, “Preface,” from Yigal Sheffy’s, Early Warning Countdown:
The “Rotem” Affair and the Israeli Security Perception, 1957-1960, Tel Aviv:
Ma’arachot, 2008: p. 8

[68] Henry Kissinger, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the
Problems of Peace, 1812-22, 1957, Re-Print: Echo books, 2013, pp. 144-145

[69] For example, in 2012, a survey found that about three-quarters of
respondents supported the cancellation of the peace agreement between Israel
and Egypt (Globes, 21 October 2012)
http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1000791440); And in September
2015 it was found that most Egyptians consider Israel to be the most hostile
In October 2017, a poll found that 29% of Egyptians supported the idea that
Arab countries should cooperate with Israel on issues such as technology,
counter-terrorism and the containment of Iran, still a small number but more
than previously. Washington Institute for Near East Policy Poll, October
12th, 2017,

It is difficult to know what influence the policy of el-Sisi, who supports
cooperation with Israel more than any of his predecessors and enjoys great
popularity, will have – will he try and succeed in changing public opinion
in relation to Israel in Egypt?

[70] The Arab Weekly, September 17th, 2017,
Some estimate the number deployed in the Sinai today as higher than that.
For example, Eli Dekel, “The Military Infrastructure in Sinai,” lecture, 23
September 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGdNR3a1tnA

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