The United States will have delivered eight F-16 Block 52 fighter jets to Egypt by Saturday, the first such deliveries since military aid was halted in 2013.
The US embassy in Cairo said the eight F-16 Fighting Falcons would arrive on 30 and 31 July and would be delivered to Cairo West Air Base “as part of ongoing American support in Egypt and throughout the region. Built in Fort Worth, Texas, the eight fighter jets are being flown in directly from the United States, and will be immediately integrated into the Egyptian Air Force, joining its existing fleet of U.S.-made F-16 aircraft.”
U.S. Embassy Senior Defense Official in Cairo Major General Charles Hooper, noted, “The F-16s provide a valuable capability that is needed during these times of regional instability. America’s commitment to a strong relationship with Egypt is demonstrated by continued cooperation and capability sharing between our two countries. Extremists threaten regional security and these weapon systems provide a new tool to help Egypt fight terrorism.”
The United States embassy said four more F-16s will be delivered to Egypt in the coming months. “In addition, the United States will continue providing follow-on support, maintenance, and training for Egyptian Air Force pilots and ground crews.”
“The F-16 Block 52 delivery is the latest concrete step taken by the U.S. government in support of a friendship and strategic partnership with Egypt that has continued for over 30 years,” the US embassy said.
Despite U.S. lawmakers’ concerns that Egypt is lagging on democratic reforms, Egypt remains one of Washington’s closest security allies in the region.
Relations had cooled after former President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown by the military in 2013 after mass protests against his rule, but ties with former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was later elected to succeed him, have steadily improved.
In late March, U.S. President Barack Obama lifted a hold on a supply of arms to Cairo, authorizing deliveries of U.S. weapons valued at more than $1.3 billion, Reuters reports.
At the time he directed the release of 12 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft, 20 Boeing Harpoon missiles, and up to 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits made by General Dynamics.
Last month, Washington delivered two Ambassador IV class fast missile craft to Egypt, doubling Cairo’s total fleet to four.
In November last year Egypt received ten AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the United States. The Egyptian Air Force ordered 12 Apaches in 2009 to augment the 35 that have been in service since 2003.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Egypt on Sunday to hold a “strategic dialogue”, which last took place between the two countries in December 2009.