Wings of glory
Festive spirit: once again Egypt celebrates its Air Force Day, reports Amirah Ibrahim
Since 14 October 1973, the date of the famous air battle of Mansoura, the day has been celebrated as Air Force Day. The battle itself involved 160 jet fighters, the majority belonging to Israel, and lasted for almost an hour over the Nile Delta town of Mansoura.
Despite numerical and technical superiority 18 Israeli planes were downed. The rest retreated.
"On 6 October 1973, 220 Egyptian warplanes took off from 20 airports and air bases around Egypt to launch the first strike in the glorious war to liberate our occupied lands," remembered Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Reda Mahmoud Hafez.
"They succeeded to reach the battle zone at the same time and every one of them returned. There was not a single Egyptian causality," Hafez said at a press conference held to mark the anniversary.
He singled out the bitter experiences of 1967 as a seminal moment for the Air Force. "Everyone was determined such a thing should never happen again."
Hafez recalled that the process of rebuilding Egypt's air force, after its near total destruction in 1967, came in two stages, the first prior to the 1973 War, the second following the conflict.
"To prepare to war, we needed to replace the planes lost in 1967. A complete network of air bases and airports was constructed. Our pilots underwent extensive training which resulted in their outstanding performance during the 1973 War."
The second stage followed the 1973 victory.
"We diversified the sources of our weaponry, purchasing arms from both East and West. Currently, we obtain weapons and armament systems from many countries, the US, China, Ukraine, Germany, France, Russia, Czech Republic, Canada and Britain."
"We have carried out a continuous process of updating equipment and communication systems. Among the old jet fighters still serving in the Egyptian Air Force is the Soviet-manufactured MiG-21, which took part in the 1973 air battles. But the Air Force also owns the world's most advanced warplanes; the F-16, the Mirage 2000/5, unmanned drones and E-2C early warning aircraft."
Air power, though, is not simply a function of fleet size and advanced equipment.
"It is the ability to perform and complete missions successfully," says Hafez. "The Air Force is absolutely capable of carrying out any mission ordered by military command."
The Egyptian Air Force also plays an effective role in civil life.
"Over the last decade the Air Force has contributed to international aid operations, from the Far East to the southern most parts of Africa," says Hafez. He underlined cooperation between the Air Force and border guards to combat drug plantations in Sinai. "Our units also contribute with environmental bodies to safeguard remote protectorates in the Western Desert against any violation."