EDEX 2018…And Subsequent Deals

The second EDEX (Egyptian Defence Exhibition) is set to take place later this year. So we look back at the first event that took place in December 2018 and review the purchases and deliveries that have since taken place. EDEX 2018 went some way to building on the pledge by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, a former Army officer, to strengthen the military after he took office in 2014.  The ongoing war with Islamic militias now centering around the Sinai Peninsula, is the main focus of Egypt’s military.  There is also the threat of Iran, a major threat to stability in the region. It’s no surprise Egypt is keen to arm itself with the best that is out there, with much of it coming from Russia and the USA.  And they usually buy big numbers. Issues over the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt meant Turkey and Qatar, which supported its uprising were given the cold shoulder by the new Egyptian Government. So the likes of Turkish Aerospace, Roketsan, and Aselsan which are ever-presents at defence events like this were not there. 

An exciting event

The Egyptian International Exhibition Center (EIEC) was the location, a fairly new facility in the desert suburbs of Cairo. Apart from the logistics of getting to and from the event, it was a pretty robust affair. All aspects of defence – air, land and sea was present which meant it was busy.   Three very large halls brought together the best that the defence industry has to offer. Hall 1 included pavilions from France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, UK, Ukraine, UAE and USA with an Egyptian Armed Forces VIP area in the middle; Hall 2 had China, Germany, Greece, Pakistan, Russia as well as another US pavilion, while in Hall 3 India, Spain, Portugal and South Africa shared half of the area with a massive Egyptian MOD static display as well as big exhibition areas for Alexandria Shipyard, Arab International Optronics, Ministry of Production and Arab Organisation for Industrialization. Many companies, like BAE Systems which has its own worldwide network of logistical support were not part of the pavilion system.  Most of the BAE’s focus was from its US subsidiary and centred around land radars and the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser guided rocket.  The Air division was at Bahrain a few weeks earlier and opted not to come to EDEX. The Egyptian Air Force flies with a broad spectrum of aircraft, from across the globe spanning Brazil, China, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and USA.  It must be a logistical nightmare for the EAF, but there are many air forces that operate like this.  Not relying on one source ensure their operational readiness is not bitten by sanctions. Most of these nations were present, with the exception of Brazil and Embraer.  Judging from conversations with most of the aerospace companies, they felt obliged to be present if they wanted to continue business in Egypt. Significant absentees were Embraer and thus giving up any chance of selling the KC390 military air transporter or new Super Tucano. The USA’s Sierra Nevada, the US based prime contractor based in Jacksonville, Florida which heads up US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) A-29 Super Tucano deals were not present either. Meanwhile North Carolina based IOMAX confirmed it was in discussions with the EAF for a potential sale of 12 Archangel Border Patrol Aircraft.  Under a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) deal, the BPAs will employ a similar weapon configuration as the UAE Block 2 aircraft.  That includes the GBU-12 Mk 82 laser guided bomb, GBU-58 Mk 81 laser JDAM and AGM 114 Hellfire.  But given the poor relations with Turkey, Egypt has opted to replace the Roketsan Cirit 2.75 inch laser-guided rockets which is integrated on the UAE aircraft.  Instead, it has opted for the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided rocket.  According to IOMAX Vice President, Business Development Seamus Flatley, “we are in the early stages of integrating the APKWS which transforms the Hydra 70 unguided rocket into attacking moving and stationary targets with low collateral damage.” BAE Systems was keen to stress that its laser guided rocket could only be acquired through foreign military sales, and claims the system has had a ‘100% success rate in Iraq’ while being operated from Iraqi Air Force Bell IA-407s.  The EAF already operates 12 BPA Block 1s, supplied by the UAEAF&AD in Spring, 2017, which IOMAX is providing logistical support, spares and training.  Flatley continued: “these older aircraft are likely to be upgraded to the similar Archangel configuration in the near future. This will see the armed control system upgraded, and with it the ability to carry a payload of 1,000Ibs allowing two GBU-58s laser JDAMs on dual ejection racks under each wing. While the FLIR Brite Star on these older BPAs will be replaced by the L3 Wescam MX-15.” During early June 2020, several of the Archangels were seen at Aswan in southern Egypt but it was unclear if they had been through an upgrade. 

Big presence from Saudi and UAE 

Saudi Arabia hosted the biggest pavilion. The Military Industries Corporation featured several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from the Prince Sultan Defense (formerly known as Prince Sultan Advanced Technical Research Institute).  The biggest was the Sky Guard, with the third prototype, SG-03 on view. According to a PSD spokesperson, it is the last of three built for research and development, while a fourth is currently under construction.  SG-03 was fitted with a SATCOM, allowing the UAV to datalink data imagery up to 400kms (250 miles) I was told and can stay airborne for eight hours. The Sky Guard has a maximum altitude of 8,000 metres (19,000ft) and a maximum payload of 50kg (110lbs) which can include an electro-optical (EO)/infra-red (IR) turret.  The company said the Sky Guard is now going into full scale production for a customer but wouldn’t say which one.  The Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), which Arabian Aerospace featured recently, was also present but most of its display was devoted to the $2.2 billion joint venture deal with Spain’s Navanti and the purchase of five Avante 2200 Corvettes.  A close second in size to the Saudi set-up was the UAE, which had the likes of Abu Dhabi Aviation presenting its Maximus Air subsidiary; ADASI (Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investment) with its UAS solutions and Calidus with a cockpit simulator of its revolutionary B-250 two-seater training aircraft.  Calidus is keen to gain Arab support for the B-250 after unveiling it at Dubai Air Show last November and was also at Bahrain International Air Show two weeks earlier.  

Arab Organisation for Industrialisation

Down at Hall 3, the Arab Organization for Industrialisation (AOI) was exhibiting the products and services of the 13 companies that make up the business, launched in 1975. The Helwan-based Aircraft Factory assembled 120 K-8Es between 2008 and 2010, and since completing production has been overhauling them.  In doing so, the Aircraft Factory has increased the standard eight years mean time between overhaul (MTBO) advocated by the Chinese to ten years. According to the company’s chairman, Major General Engineer Zein who has been in office for four years now, most of them have now been overhauled. The factory has also assembled 30 Chinese ASN-209 UAVs since 2010.  They are used for tactical reconnaissance, with a payload of up to 50kgs – the one on display had a small EO/IR turret.  According to the chairman, the company could work on some of the newer generation aircraft now being delivered, like the Dassault Rafale, RAC MiG-29M or even upgrade the Lockheed Martin F-16 (see later). Another source told Arabian Aerospace that the company overhauls EAF Mirage 2000s.   Located next to the Aircraft Factory display was Helwan for Development Industries (HFDI) that has been focussing on overhauling Mi-8s, Mi-17s and SA342L Gazelles of the Egyptian Air Force since 2004.  General Director Engineer Megahed Abdel, told Arabian Aerospace, “we are licensed by Russian Helicopters to overhaul the Mi-8/17 and Airbus Helicopters to overhaul the SA342L Gazelle for the Egyptian Armed Forces.”  A video on the wall showed a facility full of Russian helicopters being worked on. The General Director added, “we would like to gain an export license to overhaul these helicopters operating with other Middle East and Africa countries.”

The Usual Suspects

When the Egyptian Government signed a 5.2 billion Euro deal with France which included 24 Dassault Rafales in February 2015, paving the way for France’s aerospace industry to get a piece of the action. So it wasn’t surprising there was a big French presence at EDEX. Dassault and its Rafale International subsidiary were present to spearhead its Rafale marketing campaign. A large model of a Rafale in EAF markings was the centre-piece of the latter’s presence.  MBDA was displaying the Scalp stand-off weapon and Mica IR/RF air to air missiles that would arm Egypt’s Rafales. All 16 dual seat Rafale DMs and eight single-seat EMs have been delivered to 34 Squadron/203 Tactical Fighter Brigade at Gebel El Basur Air Base, although its believed one of the latter was lost in a crash on January 29, 2019. Thales has been present in Egypt since 1982 and promotes local expansion in the region which has seen the number of employees swell to 500 including joint ventures. Egypt is the first export customer for the Thales Talios multifunction targeting pod, which is expected to replace the Damocles on the EAF Rafales.  Safran was displaying one of its Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM) Hammer Precision Guided Munitions which arms the EAF Rafale. The company announced in June 2015, that it had signed a contract with Egypt to cover all three versions of the AASM Hammer now in service: hybrid inertial/GPS guidance, inertial/GPS and terminal infrared guidance, and inertial/GPS plus laser terminal guidance.US aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing were both present too.  L-M is keen to upgrade the EAF’s F-16s, and was displaying a model of a F-16 Block 50 with JDAM and AIM-120 AMRAAMs. They could arm the 200 or so EAF F-16s if any upgrade does go ahead. Boeing were keen to show off the AH-64E gunship to the EAF, which is not surprising given the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified US Congress, just days before EDEX of a possible sale of ten AH-64E Apache to Egypt worth $1 billion. Nothing transpired. However on May 7, 2020 the US State Department announced a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Government of Egypt to upgrade 43 AH-64Ds to AH-64E Apache for an estimated cost of $2.3 billion (for more see News: Egypt to Upgrade 43 Apaches, May 8, 2020).  From a Russian perspective, the EAF is currently taking delivery of up to 50 MiG-29M/M2s (29 single-seat Ms and 12 M2s had been delivered by April 2020, although one of the MiG-29Ms crashed in late-2018 just before the event).  RAC/MiG was keen to market the capabilities of its more capable MiG-35, with the Zhuka AE AESA radar.  However, the EAF never opted for the MiG-35, instead it signed a USD 2 billion deal for 26 Su-35s on March 18, 2019.  The Sukhoi facility at Komsomolsk on Amur plant in Russia is expected to start delivering the aircraft in late 2020/21. Russian Helicopters displayed an Egyptian Air Force, Kamov Ka-52 Hokum-B attack helicopter, devoid of any marks and cramped up in a fenced area in a car park! The Ka-52 has been in service since July 2017 and by December 2019, 39 had been delivered.  The Russians are keen to sell a naval version, known as the Ka-52K Katran for the two Egyptian Mistral-class large landing ships.  They were built by France for Russia, but under sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 the deal was stopped and Egypt acquired them.  Acquiring two such vessels and seeing what else was on display at EDEX illustrated the ambitions that Egypt has to establish itself as a major military power once again.