Source : Indo-Asian News Service
CAIRO: The recent visit of Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh to Egypt is only the latest sign of tightening defence ties between the two nations, one that could result in a joint manufacturing deal for light combat fighters. But beyond the fighters themselves, analysts said that should the deal go down, Egypt stands to gain something more valuable: advanced production knowledge. “Cairo is looking not only to diversify procurement options but also to localize production with the goal of developing domestic defence capabilities,” said Mohammed Soliman, a manager at McLarty Associates, and non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute. “It is important to think from a lens that underlines strategic resiliency and effectiveness rather than efficiency. Egypt wants to become a middle power in terms of developing resilient and indigenous military capabilities, which would allow Cairo to withstand great power competition.” During Singh’s visit, he signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with his Egyptian counterpart, Gen. Mohamed Zaki, that states the two countries would enhance defence cooperation. That general commitment comes months after Indian and Egyptian media reported in late June that India had offered to set up production facilities in Egypt to produce Tejas Mk1A light combat aircraft and helicopters. India has offered Egypt to set up production and manufacturing facilities for TEJAS MK-1A Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), as well as helicopters, informed sources told Daily News Egypt. This comes as India pursues export opportunities in the MENA region. The sources confirmed the reports in Indian media that a series of high-level engagements have taken place with Egypt. They added that the commander of the Egyptian Air Force is expected to visit India in a few days, where India will showcase its expertise in manufacturing and fleet maintenance. Air Force Chief Marshal VR Chowdhury visited Egypt in November last year and attended the Air Force Symposium and Defence Exhibition in Cairo.
The sources, who are familiar with the current negotiations, revealed to Egyptian media that the Egyptian Air Force needs approximately 70 light combat aircraft, with a focus on local production and technology transfer.
Egypt currently operates a mixed fleet of American, French, and Russian aircraft, and has been keen to establish aviation manufacturing facilities. Besides offering the TEJAS MK-1A to Egypt, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has also introduced its range of indigenous helicopters such as the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and Light Combat Helicopters (LCH). Reports have also indicated that India is the frontrunner for Malaysia’s requirements for light combat aircraft, with a comprehensive deal on the table including maintenance and spare parts for Russia’s Su-30 fighter jets.