The United States will deliver eight F-16 aircrafts to Egypt on Thursday and Friday as part of its “ongoing support in Egypt and throughout the region,” according to an American Embassy in Cairo statement.
The jets flew over the pyramids, the Maspero building and the Nile River at 4:30 pm on Friday to celebrate the deal. Defense Minister Sedky Saleh attended the ceremony celebrating their arrival, the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
The deal comes amid US military operations targeting Islamic State strongholds in the region, as well as Egypt’s ongoing counterterrorism operations in Sinai and elsewhere in the country.
“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,” Major General Charles Hopper, a US Embassy senior defense official in Cairo, said in the statement.
This US$1.3 billion commitment to Egypt is focused on “upgrading Egypt’s security and military strength in light of Egypt’s intense efforts to confront terrorism,” the statement continued. The US government vowed to deliver four more F-16s this fall, as well as to offer ongoing support, maintenance and training for Air Force pilots.
The delivery comes just a few days after Egypt received three Rafale fighter jets from France, the first dispatch of 24 warplanes sold in a $5.6 billion deal earlier this year, according to AFP.
Rights groups including Amnesty International have criticized the sale, fearing that the Egyptian military could use the French equipment in ways that violate human rights and international law.
The US had repeatedly postponed delivering the aircrafts following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. US laws prohibit giving aid to countries that have undergone military coups. This reluctance to ship the fighter jets was a source of major contention with the post-Morsi government.
But given its historically strong relationship with the Egyptian military, the US has also been cautious not to antagonize its major stable ally in the region. The US military aid package was a pillar of the Camp David peace treaty, and any disruption of that historical deal could impact regional stability. The Egyptian military is seen as the major stabilization force in the strategic Sinai Peninsula.
As Egypt-US relations have returned to their previously friendly tenor, earlier this month Egypt also received four high-tech warships worth $1.1 billion, and has been engaged in talks to potentially host a US airbase for aerial drones to help fight Islamic State militants in Libya.