Egypt Receives First Batch of F-16s from the U.S.
Egypt received four F-16 aircraft from the United States on Sunday, the Egypt Independent reports.
According to the report, the country’s Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised the growing military cooperation between Egypt and the U.S. after receiving the four fighter jets.
At a ceremony in honor of the F-16s received from the U.S., Sisi said Egypt looks forward to further cooperation to build and develop the combat capabilities of the Armed Forces.
The four aircraft are part of a group of 20 F-16s that are expected to be delivered to Egypt this year. They are part of the US$1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt.
The jets were ordered by deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but the current Muslim Brotherhood-led administration under President Mohammed Morsi will take over the inheritance.
To date, the U.S. has delivered 224 F-16 aircraft to Egypt, according to a statement published on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s website and quoted by the Egypt Independent.
Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force for International Affairs, said that delivering these fighter planes confirms U.S. keenness to strengthen military cooperation between the two countries to achieve security and stability in the Middle East.
Egyptian military leaders and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne W. Patterson attended the ceremony on Sunday, according to the Egypt Independent.
“Today’s ceremony demonstrates the firm belief of the United States that a strong Egypt is in the interest of the U.S., the region, and the world,” said Patterson.
“We look to Egypt to continue to serve as a force for peace, security, and leadership as the Middle East proceeds with its challenging yet essential journey toward democracy,” she said.
The fighter jets are being delivered amid growing unrest in Egypt. More than 50 people have been killed in clashes that broke out during anti-Morsi demonstrations this past week.
People took to the streets in several cities on Friday in a show of opposition to Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood after last week's deadly unrest across Egypt, the worst since Morsi was elected in June.
Port Said accounted for most of the almost 60 people killed. Violence erupted there after 21 local supporters of a soccer club were sentenced to death on January 26 over the killings of 74 people in post-match violence.
Egypt's main opposition group on Saturday backed calls to oust the ruling Islamists and demanded that Morsi be prosecuted for "killings and torture," while urging Egyptians to stage peaceful protests.
Last week, two U.S. Republican senators introduced legislation to halt arms sales to Egypt.
One of the two is Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, who proposed a bill prohibiting the sale of F-16 aircraft, tanks and other advanced weapons to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
“I think it is a blunder of the first proportion to send sophisticated weapons to a country that allowed a mob to attack our embassy and to burn our flag,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “I find it objectionable to send weapons, F-16s and tanks, to a company that allowed a mob chanting ‘death to America’ to threaten our American diplomats.”
Republican Sen. James Inhofe from Oklahoma, the new ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced similar legislation.
Inhofe said that an outright ban would cost the U.S. defense industry $2.2 billion and diminish America's leverage over Egypt, but suggested that the U.S. suspend sales to Egypt unless President Obama certifies that the country is committed to pursuing peaceful relations with Israel, providing security to U.S. embassies and consulates and respecting minority parties' rights.