US airplane manufacturer Lockheed Martin has been given permission by the US government to sell 24 F-16 jet fighters to Egypt in a $3.2 billion deal. Congress was notified of the deal in October, according to a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin.
A Pentagon report released by Haaretz newspaper says the Egyptian F-16 deal is aimed at making Egypt a "more valuable partner in the Middle East" in addition to supporting "Egypt's own self-defense needs," according to the UPI news agency. Additionally, Israel's neighbor will receive four batteries of highly advanced Harpoon Block II anti-ship cruise missiles, four fast missile boats, 450 Hellfire anti-tank missiles (to be sold with restrictions on use and transfer, according to the Pentagon), and 156 jet engines for F-16 aircraft.
Relations between Egypt and the United States have strengthened since US President Barack Hussein Obama assumed power. President Hosni Mubarak has already met with Obama in Washington, having avoided the Oval Office for 5 years due to differences with former President George W. Bush.
According to the Agence France Presse, Egypt receives approximately $1.5 billion in US aid annually, half of what Israel receives. Much of the aid given to countries by the United States must be used to buy American-made products and arms.
Until June 2009, the United States repeatedly denied Egyptian requests to purchase arms because of Egypt's record on human rights and democracy, according to website F-16.net. That policy has changed under President Obama.
More deals worry Israel
Yet the Egyptian arsenal is not the only military deal okayed by the Obama administration which is worrying Israel. Saudia Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates also have new military acquisition contracts with the United States. The Pentagon has released the details to Congress.
Some of the purchases will include 2,742 anti-tank missiles for Saudia Arabia, 1,808 anti-tank missiles and 162 launchers with night vision systems for Jordan, 1,600 laser-guided "smart bombs and 800 one-ton and 400 bunker buster bombs for the UAE, and 24 additional F-16s for Morocco, the first owned by that country's air force," according to UPI.
The Department of Defense presentation to Congress stated that the military balance of power would not be impacted in the region as a result of the sale, although no arms deals have been made with Israel since the inception of the Obama administration.
American military officials say the arms deals were justified as a means of deterring Iran.