France is looking for a way around the United States’ blocking of Scalp cruise missile technology for Egypt, and is exploring the possibility of replacing American components with alternatives so it can deliver the missiles as well as additional Rafale fighters to Egypt.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly recently said in the country’s National Assembly that the decision by the United States to use the International Trade in Arms Regulation (ITAR) agreement to block the sale of Scalp missiles to Egypt could be circumvented if domestically-built parts are used instead.
“In this case, we will not be able to lift the US opposition to the sale of Scalp missiles. The only thing we can do is for MBDA [which makes the missiles] to make some investment in research and development to be able to manufacture similar components that are not covered by ITAR,” Parly said last month. “We can do it for the Egyptian Scalp/Rafale in so far as the new missile can be built with a reasonable delay, though the customer might find this delay a bit too long.”
“It is true that we depend on this [US International Traffic in Arms Regulations] mechanism: We are at the mercy of the Americans when our equipment is concerned,” she said. Because the United States will not lift its opposition to the sale of Scalp missiles, France has had to come up with alternatives.
Egypt has ordered 24 Rafale jets from France, and is looking to acquire 12 more, but only if it can buy Scalp missiles for them.
It appears earlier reports that the impasse with the United States had been resolved, were premature. La Tribune reported that French President Emmanual Macron broached the Scalp issue during his visit to the United States in April. The newspaper in July reported that licenses had been granted to export components used in the missiles to Egypt while France is also in the process of finding alternative components for the missile that are ITAR-free.
In February it emerged that a plan to acquire 12 Rafales stalled after the United States refused to sell the manufacturer key components of the SCALP missile. The planned Egyptian acquisition of 12 Rafale fighter aircraft has been in the making since November 2017. It was billed to be a follow-up sale to a February 2015 agreement for an Egyptian acquisition of 24 Rafale fighter jets.
The new Egyptian defence minister Mohamed Ahmed Zaki Mohamed visited France in July, with Egypt expressing interest in acquiring 30 Patroller unmanned aerial vehicles and Cougar helicopters for the navy. Egypt was also interested in acquiring two additional Gowind corvettes but apparently negotiations are stalled over pricing and is now looking at German warships.
Forecast International notes that the deepening Egyptian-French relationship comes as the volume of U.S. sales to Egypt has waned after the US put a temporary hold on military sales and assistance to Egypt.
Since President Sisi took office, Egypt has turned to Russia and France for the big force modernization contracts. From Russia, Egypt purchased dozens of MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets and Ka-52 attack helicopters. The Egyptian military introduced Antey-2500 surface-to-air missile systems into service and is to procure T-90S/SK main battle tanks. France has sold Mistral helicopter carriers (initially destined for Russia) to Egypt, along with a FREMM frigate, several Gowind 2500 corvettes, and Rafale fighter jets. Further contracts with both countries are planned.