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The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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Written by V. Kruglov (Ph.D. Military Sciences, Professor) and Major M. Tatarinov; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review #4 2019, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront

The military doctrine of the Arab Republic of Egypt (ARE) in the form of a single document that should contain assessments of the military and political situation in the world, the Middle East and North Africa, threats and challenges to national security, as well as a system of views on the essence, nature of wars and armed conflicts, ways to unleash them and conduct them, is absent. The goals, objectives, purpose and status of the ARE Armed Forces to ensure the country’s security are specified in Articles 152, 200-205 and 234 of the Egyptian constitution.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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The military doctrinal views of the leadership of this state are based on three basic concepts: “national security”, “active defence” and “local wars”. In addition, views on the military construction and application of their forces are set out in the annual directives of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and the Minister of Defence of the ARE, as well as in other national security documents. According to them, it is allowed to use the army in internal conflicts to suppress possible anti-government demonstrations and mass riots, as well as to eliminate the consequences of man-made and environmental disasters.

Cairo considers the probability of direct military aggression by another state to be low. This situation has been achieved through active foreign policy activities and maintaining Egypt’s military potential at a sufficiently high level.

However, the unstable domestic political situation in neighbouring countries (Libya, Sudan) and in the Palestinian territories may lead to the outbreak of border conflicts, with the potential to escalate into local and large-scale wars. Under certain conditions, it is not excluded that the ARE my be drawn into a regional war, such as an Arab-Israeli or Arab-Iranian war, although Egyptian doctrinal views at this stage do not provide for the possibility of the country joining military-political blocks and alliances.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt is an essential component of a military organisation designed to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests of the state. They consist of Ground Forces, Air Force, Air Defence and Naval Forces. The main tasks of the country’s Armed Forces are:

  • counteracting external security threats to the ARE, timely uncovering the threatening military and political situations and preparing an armed attack on the country;
  • safeguarding the economic and political interests of the republic;
  • suppression of activities aimed at destabilising the domestic political situation, violent overthrow of the constitutional order, creation of illegal armed groups, etc.;
  • fight against international terrorism, coordination of actions of all security agencies of the country on antiterrorist activities;
  • high-quality and full implementation of operational, combat and mobilisation training plans;
  • maintaining weapons and military equipment in readiness for combat use.

According to the constitution adopted in 2014, the President is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the ARE Supreme Council.

He directs the Armed Forces through the Minister of Defence and Military Industry, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. There are two advisory bodies to the President – the National Defence Council and the Higher Military Council.

The National Defence Council is the main body that determines the military-political course and military policy of the state, the directions of building the Armed Forces, as well as the procedure for coordinating the activities of ministries and agencies in the military sphere. It is composed of: the President (Chairman), the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Parliament, the Ministers of Defence and Military Industry, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Finance, the commanders of the branches of the Armed Forces, the Chiefs of General Intelligence, the General Staff (GS), as well as the General Operations Directorate, the Military Intelligence and Counterintelligence Directorate of the MoD.

The Higher Military Council performs advisory functions to the President of the country on the construction of the Egyptian Armed Forces, elaboration of programmes for the development of military industry and technology, determination of priority areas of military and technical cooperation with foreign countries. It includes the Minister of Defence and Military Industry (Chairman), the Head of the GS (Deputy Chairman), the Secretary General of the MoD, the commanders of the branches of the Armed Forces, the Border Troops, the Field Armies (FA) and the military districts, the heads of the Military Intelligence and Counterintelligence Departments, as well as other officials (by presidential decision).

The Ministry of Defence is the highest military authority in the country’s Armed Forces and military industrial complex. It implements the military-political, military economic and military-technical course of the ARE management. The main functions of the defence department are planning, distribution and spending of the military budget, coordination of activities of civil industries producing military products, development of programmes for the development and rearmament of the Armed Forces and their branches.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces is the central body of the military and operational management of the ARE. Its key tasks include: strategic planning for the use of the Armed Forces; leadership of land forces and territorial defence units; operational management of the Air Force, Navy and Air Defence Forces; organisation of operational and mobilisation training; maintenance of combat and mobilisation readiness; organisation of strategic and mobilisation deployment; military registration and conscription of citizens for military service; organisation of combat, technical and logistics support.

The total number of personnel of the Armed Forces is about 486 thousand people, including Ground Forces – 351 thousand; Air Force – 30 thousand; Navy – 22 thousand; Air Defence troops – 82.5 thousand.

After mobilisation, it could be expanded to 1.3 million people.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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The ARE Ground Forces, which form the basis of the Armed Forces, are the most numerous and include the following types of troops: motorised infantry and armoured, artillery, anti-aircraft missile, parachute, special purpose, border, Republican Guard, Territorial Defence troops (TD). They do not have their own headquarters. The GS of the Armed Forces and directorates of the Ministry of Defence perform these functions.

In order to organise and manage the daily activities of troops in peacetime and to prepare them for combat use in a threatened period, military districts (MRs) have been established in the secondary areas of possible enemy attack, which can be transformed into independent groups of troops with the beginning of hostilities.

From a military administrative point of view, the country’ territory is divided into four military districts and two zones of responsibility: the 2nd (Ismailia) and 3rd (Suez) Field Armies.

The main operational command of the Army is the Field Army, the commander of which reports directly to the Chief of the General Staff. In a number of functions, it is equated to a military district. The headquarters provides operational direction of the field artillery troops. At present, the Field Armies form the basis of the Ground Forces grouping in the Suez Canal area and represent the most powerful Egyptian army units.

The main operational-tactical force of the Army, capable of conducting combat operations both independently and jointly with units and subdivisions of other branches of the Armed Forces and types of troops, is a division. The country’s land forces have two types of divisions – mechanised and tank divisions.

The main tactical unit is a brigade, designed to conduct combat operations both independently and jointly with units and subdivisions of other branches and types of troops.

The Ground Forces include a number of brigades: motorised infantry, mechanised, tank, parachute, tactical and operational-tactical missiles, artillery, rocket artillery, anti-tank guided missiles, anti-aircraft missile, anti-aircraft artillery and territorial defence.

In addition, this type of Armed Forces includes separate regiments: anti-tank missile, rocket artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, special purpose and border troops.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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The troops with special designations of the Army of the ARE are represented by one SF regiment and three Rangers, a separate anti-terrorist group (“Unit 777”) and a special operations group (“Unit 999). They are intended for reconnaissance and special operations, destruction of strategically important objects in the enemy rear and physical elimination of personnel of the opposing forces.

In addition, the Army has a Rapid Response Force (RRF), which consists of a separate mechanised brigade, a separate motorised infantry battalion and one separate rapid reaction force.

Operatively, the RRF reports to the Chief of General Staff of the ARE Armed Forces, and administratively to the Commander of the Central Military District (CMD) of the country’s Armed Forces.

The Republican Guard (RG) reports directly to the ARE Minister of Defence. Its main task is to protect the complex of presidential and governmental buildings, as well as to ensure the security of the country’s top officials. In the course of its daily activities, the RG is under the operational control of the Central Defence Commission.

The organisational structure of the RG is close to the typical structure of a tank division of land forces without combat support units – it includes two tank and two mechanised and artillery brigades.

The Border Troops (BT) are intended to protect maritime and land borders in peacetime, and in wartime for special tasks.

Individual BT units may be assigned to the Field Army and the district. Organisationally, the BT consists of a number of regiments (border, air surveillance and warning, communications), individual border battalions and mortar divisions.

The Territorial Defence troops are designed to ensure the deployment of the Armed Forces, to combat enemy landings and sabotage and reconnaissance groups, to eliminate the consequences of the use of weapons of mass destruction, to protect and defend important military and state facilities, coastal areas and communication routes. The main organisational unit of these troops is the brigade, which has no permanent staff. Depending on the tasks it may have from 2 to 3 thousand men, equipped with small arms and 82-mm mortars.

Troops of Egypt’s TD, which number about 50,000 servicemen, are organisationally represented by separate TD brigades and separate battalions of security, structurally part of the group of troops of the corresponding military or FA.

The Army has four military districts, two Field Armies, commands of paratroopers, special operations forces, border guards and Republican Guard. They include:

  • 12 divisions (eight mechanised and four tank divisions);
  • 70 separate brigades (one operational-tactical (R-17E) and tactical (“Moon-M”) missiles, four motorised infantry, five mechanised, one mechanised rapid reaction, three tank, two paratroopers, 11 TD, 12 artillery, four rocket artillery, four ATGM, one anti-tank, seven anti-aircraft missile, three anti-aircraft artillery, 11 engineering);
  • 22 separate regiments (three special purpose regiments, one each for reactive artillery, anti-tank artillery, anti-tank and airborne artillery, four anti-aircraft artillery regiments, three artillery instrumental reconnaissance regiments, one for radio and radio technical reconnaissance, six for communications, one for chemical protection);
  • 13 regiments of border troops;
  • five brigades of the Republican Guard (two mechanised, two tank, one artillery);
  • three special groups (anti-terrorism, special operations, separate rapid response team);
  • one separate motorised infantry battalion in rapid response;
  • one separate SF battalion.

Four additional divisions, 30 separate brigades and eight separate regiments are planned to be deployed during the threatening period or with the beginning of hostilities.

The Army is armed with:

  • 21 launchers of short-range missiles and tactical missiles (nine R-17 short-range missiles, 12 “Moon-M” tactical missiles);
  • over 3,400 battle tanks, including M1A1 Abrams, M60A3, M60A1, T-54/55/62 and T-72B1;
  • artillery – more than 3,600 weapons, including mortars, field artillery and MLRS guns (“Sakr-10, -18 and -30”);
  • More than 2,800 anti-tank assets, including anti-tank artillery, recoilless guns and anti-tank guns;
  • more than 1,800 anti-aircraft assets, including anti-aircraft missiles (“Chaparel”, “Skygard”, “Crotal” and “Kvadrat”), anti-aircraft artillery and man-portable air defence systems (“Arrow-2M” and “Ain-Sakr”);
  • about 7,900 armoured combat vehicles.

The number of personnel of the Egyptian land forces is 351 thousand people, the trained reserve of the first stage is 150 thousand, the second stage is 300 thousand.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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The Air Force is designed to conduct independent and joint operations with other branches of the Armed Forces to defeat the enemy’s aviation, land forces and maritime groups, to undermine its military and economic potential, disorganise state and military administration, disrupt the rear, transport, as well as to provide aviation support to its Army and fleet forces, conducting aerial reconnaissance and troop movements.

The Air Force is responsible for the following main tasks:

  • protection and defence of the country’s airspace;
  • to cover major administrative, industrial and military facilities from air strikes;
  • to conquer and maintain excellence in the air;
  • direct air support to the ground forces;
  • air strikes against enemy naval groups in the Mediterranean and Rea Seas;
  • air reconnaissance;
  • airlift of troops and cargo;
  • ensuring the safety of navigation in the maritime zones and the Suez Canal area.

The Air Force is directly led by the Commander of the Air Force (Lieutenant General of Aviation) through the General Headquarters of the Air Force.

He reports to the Chief of Staff and is responsible for the state of readiness of the Air Force and the development of its combat plans, both independently and jointly with other branches of Egyptian Armed Forces.

The main headquarters provides operational and combat control of the Air Force through the districts, divisions and brigades headquarters.

The airspace of the ARE is divided into five military air districts – Central, Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern – whose boundaries are defined by the zones of responsibility of the airspace of the same name (except Eastern). The Eastern District of the Air Force is the 2nd and 3rd FA Areas of Responsibility.

During the threatening period, the functions of direct operational control of aviation activities are transferred to the commanders of the relevant military units. The forces and means of the Eastern Military District come under the operational control of the commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Field Armies.

By rank, the Egyptian Air Force is divided into fighter, fighter-bomber, assault, reconnaissance, transport, helicopter and training aircraft.

The combat composition of this type of aircraft includes: the main headquarters; five military air districts and units under direct command and two aviation divisions (helicopter and transport); two reconnaissance divisions; four aviation training brigades; three separate aviation squadrons (helicopter, transport and training).

The military air districts have 14 separate aviation brigades (nine assault, fighter-bombers; three fighter-bombers and reconnaissance) and one reconnaissance squadron.

The Air Force is armed with:

  • about 550 combat aircraft, including fighter jets, attack aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, AWACS and electronic warfare aircraft (F-16C/D, F-16A/B, Mirage-5, Mirage-2000S, MiG-21, F-7, F-4E Phantom, Rafale-V/S, Alpha-Jet, Mirage 5SDR, MiG-21R, Beechcraft-1900S, E-2S Hokai, S-130H Elint, Beechcraft-1900S Elint);
  • 350 auxiliary aircraft, including transport and training aircraft (An-74T-200A, Boeing 707, Hercules C-130H/C-130N-30, DHC-5D Buffalo-11, Gulfstream-3 and -4, Falcon-20, C-295);
  • about 180 attack helicopters, including attack and combat support (SA 342K/L Gazelle, AH-64D Apache Longbow, Commando Mk2, UH-12E Hiler, AW-139, SA-342L Gazelle, Sea King, SH-2G Sea Sprite);
  • about 100 combat support (transport) helicopters – (CH-47C and D, Mi-8, Mi-17, S-70 Black Hawk, UH-60L Black Hawk);
  • over 120 unmanned aerial vehicles (R4E-50 Sky I, Camcopter, ASN-209, GJ-1 Ilun).

The number of personnel of the Air Force is 30,000 and the number of trained reserve personnel is about 20,000.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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The Navy is designed to conduct independent and joint actions with other branches of the Armed Forces to defeat the enemy’s maritime groups, undermine its military and economic potential, disrupt state and military administration, disrupt the work of the rear, transport, as well as maritime surveillance and maritime transport.

The tasks assigned to the Egyptian Navy are as follows:

  • control of territorial waters and operational areas of responsibility, protection of ports and other important coastal facilities;
  • protection of international maritime communications and control over compliance with the rules of navigation established by law in the Mediterranean and the Red Seas and the Suez Canal areas;
  • protecting economic interests, protecting natural resources;
  • conducting search and rescue operations, hydro-graphic research, protection of the aquatic environment.

In wartime, the Navy performs combat tasks in areas of responsibility both as part of individual ship groups and in cooperation with ground forces and air forces when operating in coastal areas.

The composition of this role of the Navy consists of: the main headquarters; two fleets (Northern and Southern, one brigade of boats and one special purpose boat); three brigades of warships (submarines, frigates with guided missiles weapons, landing crafts); three groups of ships (anti-miner, training and support vessels, patrol boats); a marine infantry brigade; coastal defence units and divisions; technical and logistics support units and other institutions (shipyards, naval college and naval academy).

The Navy is directly under the direction of the Commander of the Navy through the main naval headquarters. The Commander of the Navy, who reports to the Chief of the GS, is responsible for the state of readiness of the Navy, the development of plans of their combat operations, both independently and jointly with other branches of the Navy.

Due to changes in the geopolitical situation in the region, identified shortcomings in the use of Egyptian Navy forces and facilities, as well as in their provision in carrying out combat tasks in remote sea areas, two fleets were established in their structure in 2017 by order of the ARE Naval Command:

  • Northern (headquarters – main naval base at Alexandria, including the naval bases at Port Said and Mersa-Matrukh);
  • Southern (headquarters – main naval base at Safaga, including the naval base at Suez).

The Navy is an operational arm of the Navy designed to perform tasks in isolated areas.

The area of responsibility of the Northern Fleet is the south-eastern Mediterranean Sea and the northern approaches to the Suez Canal, while the Southern are approaches of the Red Sea, the Bab El Mandeb Strait and the Suez Canal. Each fleet has a brigade of boats and a special purpose crew.

Arrangements for the staffing of the fleets with ships and personnel are currently under way. In the near future, it is planned to introduce one brigade of frigates with guided missiles weapons and patrol boats into the composition.

Brigades of submarines, frigates, landing ships and marines, groups of anti-mining forces, training ships and support vessels, as well as patrol boats are under the direct command of the Navy Commander.

The main naval base at Alexandria provides all types of combat ship repair and maintenance, as well as handling a significant flow of commercial cargo.

The Egyptian Navy has no naval aviation. Aircraft and helicopters from the Air Force are allocated to solve the problems of air defence, anti-submarine and reconnaissance activities.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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The total number of ships in the Egyptian Navy is 245 warships, boats and ships for various purposes: 38 warships (including six diesel-electric submarines, 11 frigates with guided missile weapons, two corvettes, five landing crafts, more than 70 combat boats (missile, torpedo, watch and landing crafts); more than 100 patrol boats; seven training ships and boats; 18 auxiliary ships.

The Marines are armed with: 11 battle tanks (PT-76); 18 anti-tank guns (ATGM launchers “Milan”); nine anti-aircraft guns; more than 90 BMPs, and the coastal troops; missiles systems (anti-ship launchers P-15 “Termit”, paired anti-ship launchers “Automat” Mk1), field artillery guns (from 75 mm) and mortars.

The number of personnel of the national Navy is 22,000, including 2,000 members of the Coast Guard. The reserve numbers about 12,000 people. Egypt’s Navy is the largest in Africa and among the Arab states of the Middle East. In general, the level of combat training of the personnel allows it to perform the tasks set by the command to protect maritime communications, port and coastal protection.

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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The Air Defence Forces are considered by the country’s leadership as one of the basic components of its defence and security system. They are designed to protect against air and space strikes Egypt’s administrative and industrial and economic centres (areas), armed forces groups, important military and government facilities, and to organise control of their airspace.

Organisationally, the Air Defence Forces consist of the command and the main headquarters of the Air Defence Forces, five divisions of the air defence (including 28 anti-aircraft missiles brigades and 13 anti-aircraft artillery regiments), as well as units and logistical support of central subordination and educational institutions.

Egypt’s mixed air defence division my include: three to eight anti-aircraft missile brigades, two to four anti-aircraft missile brigades, one to four radio technical and one communications regiments, two to eight anti-aircraft artillery divisions, three battalions (companies) of man-portable defence systems, four warning and alert battalions, depending on its operational purpose and regional location.

The Commander of the Air Defence Forces of Egypt leads the Air Defence Forces of the country from the main headquarters of the Air Defence Forces, which is entrusted with operational and combat control of the air defence forces. Operational guidance is provided from the central air defence command centre (Cairo, Mukattam district) through the North, West and East air defence operational centres and the war control centres in those areas.

Egypt’s air defence system is built on the principle of zonal and object defence. In the course of combat operations, the Air Defence Forces perform tasks in close cooperation with the fighter aircraft of the ARE Air Force.

Weapons of the Air Defence Forces include:

  • more than 900 surface-to-air guided systems launchers, of medium and short range;
  • almost 1,350 anti-aircraft artillery pieces and about 1,000 man-portable air defence systems (“Arrow-2M”, “Igla-S”, “Ain-Sakr”).

The number of personnel of the Egyptian Air Defence Forces is 82,500 people, the prepared reserve is about 10 thousand.

The Air Defence Troops are the second largest type of Armed Forces after the Army, which is actively developing, in particular through re-equipping them with Russian anti-aircraft missile systems.

Thus, at the present stage, the ARE has not only relatively large, but also well-equipped armed forces that are generally capable of carrying out their tasks. At the same time, Cairo’s aspiration to occupy the positions of a regional leader determines the steps of the Egyptian leadership to bring the national Armed Forces to a qualitatively new level, primarily, on account of organisational and staff measures and acquisition of modern military equipment of foreign production.

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