The United States is willing to provide Egypt with F-15 fighter jets, says US Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command.
This motion will likely trigger renewed backlash in the United States Congress over whether continued military assistance and weapons transfers to Egypt is warranted despite what they deem a poor human rights record.
“I think we have good news in that we’re going to provide them with F-15s, which was a long, hard slog,” disclosed General Frank McKenzie in a congressional hearing on Tuesday. Egypt has endured a 30-year quest to acquire F-15 fighter jets, since the Presidency of Anwar El Sadat, to no avail.
McKenzie has confirmed that the deal has not yet been finalised, and has not provided any details with regards to the timing or quantity of F-15 fighters to be supplied. An official spokesperson from the US State Department has stressed that “as a matter of policy, the Department does not comment on or confirm proposed defence sales until they have been formally notified to Congress”.
Last month, McKenzie flew into Cairo in a bid to bolster bilateral military relations following the decision by US President Joe Biden administration’s to reprogram USD 130 million (EGP 1.5 billion) in military aid over human rights concerns.
The announcement by McKenzie came just days following the approval of a massive arms deal to Egypt worth approximately USD 2.2 billion (EGP 34.5 billion). The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency has noted that the deal would greatly improve Egypt’s capacity to meet current and future threats.
However, the deal has received staunch criticism from several members of the US Senate, including Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky.
“We should end military sales to Egypt’s criminal masters […] partially taking away some military aid while offering new sales that are 10 times what we’ve withheld shows weakness in the face of oppression,” Paul stated on the Senate floor.
Nonetheless, Egypt remains a vital and indispensable ally to the United States in the Middle East. US military officials have long emphasised Egypt’s significant role in maintaining regional security and stability with strong diplomatic ties with the Gulf states, Israel and Iran.