Egypt has reportedly placed an order for Russia’s Su-35 fighter jet.
Citing two defense industry sources, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on March 18, 2019, that Egypt has ordered “over two dozen” Su-35 fighter jets. Kommersant noted that the acquisition will significantly boost the Egyptian Air Force’s potential alongside deliveries of the MiG-29M/M2, which are ongoing.
The contract, worth around $2 billion, is said to have entered into force by the end of last year. Deliveries of the aircraft may begin in 2020 or 2021. The newspaper did not provide further details on the agreement, such as the armaments to be included in the deal or how Egypt is financing the acquisition.
Egypt has previously been interested in around a dozen Su-35s but began to more actively seek information on the aircraft with an eye towards procurement after the fighter jets were deployed to Syria, a source told Kommersant.
The sale will be a boost for the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aviation Plant (KnAAPO), which produces the Su-35 as well as other jets, providing production work for several years to come. The plant is producing the Su-35 for the Russian Air Force and recently completed deliveries of the aircraft to China. In September 2018, the U.S. sanctioned KnAAPO, as well as other entities, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA), over the sale of military hardware including the Su-35 to China.
Despite the American sanctions, per Kommersant’s information, Egypt finalized the contract for the Su-35 before the end of that year.
Implementation of CAATSA, which aims to limit Russia’s defense industry sales through sanctioning buyers as well as the industry itself, has proved difficult for Washington as it contends with the fact that many American allies and partners utilize Russian-made equipment.
It is unclear what the sale of Su-35s might portend for the Egyptian and French negotiations on a follow-on sale of Dassault Rafale fighter jets. In 2015, Egypt purchased 24 of those jets — with an option for 12 more — under a wider arms agreement with France. The following year, in 2016, the two sides entered into dialogue on Egypt possibly exercising that option, or even expanding it into an order of up to 24 jets.
However, even with high-level dialogue between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and French President Emmanuel Macron, Cairo and Paris have yet to finalize a follow-on Rafale deal.
As of January 2019, the French government was optimistic that a Rafale deal could be inked “in the weeks or months to come,” but disputed French media reports that a contract would be signed amid President Macron’s visit to Egypt that month.