Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
8 - 14 October 1998
Issue No.398
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Military Parade

Arms and the man

By Galal Nassar
President Hosni Mubarak, the supreme commander of the armed forces, watched Tuesday's military parade -- the first since Anwar El-Sadat's assassination in 1981 -- at the headquarters of the sixth armoured division in Ismailia. The parade was part of the festivities marking the war's silver jubilee.

Parade Parade Parade Parade
Upon Mubarak's arrival at the parade grounds, he was welcomed by Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and a musical band that played the national anthem.

Accompanied by Tantawi, Mubarak rode in an open jeep to review the weapons and equipment on display as well as the participating troops. The equipment included RBU reconnaissance planes, reconnaissance vehicles, TOW anti-tank missiles mounted on vehicles, BM21 missiles, field artillery, American M113 armoured personnel carriers, American M1A1 and M60 tanks, motor-boats, and surface-to-air Amoun, Crotale and Hawk missiles.

Mubarak also reviewed those weapons and equipment that were used in the war and are still in service, having been upgraded. These include pontoon bridges, Soviet T-54 and T-55 tanks, SU-100 artillery pieces, Soviet MIG-17 and MIG-21 jetfighters and Sukhoi-7 fighter-bombers.

After Mubarak had taken his seat in the reviewing stand, five French Gazelle helicopters flew overhead, trailing the Egyptian flag and the banners of the various branches of the armed forces.

Then, the parade began with representatives of the branches of the armed forces marching, followed by cadets of the military, air, naval, air defence and technical military academies, soldiers of the second and third armies, military engineers, units from the central, western, northern and southern military zones, border corps units, storm-troopers and paratroopers.

The big surprise at the parade was the appearance for the first time of the "flying bat", which comfortably lifted 10 men off the ground. This gadget can stay in the sky for up to 45 minutes and is extremely manoeuverable, thus making it ideal for short sorties behind enemy lines.

This was followed by the appearance in the sky of three giant C-130 transports which dropped 200 paratroopers. Then, 270 storm-troopers brought out their ropes and proceeded to climb up and down a series of walls.

A squadron of Soviet-made MI-8 and MI-17 helicopters later dropped 40 paratroopers, who displayed great skill in making formations as they came down, still weaving their patterns when they were within 10 meters of touching the ground.

The celebrations concluded with a military parade featuring patriotic songs that were popular during the war such as Allahu Akbar [God is great] and Shailin fi Edna Selah [Carrying weapons in our hands].

By staging this parade, military sources said, the armed forces wished to display their ability to integrate the latest military technology while continuing to modernise and upgrade more antiquated equipment. This is in line with the Egyptian military creed which gives precedence to man over equipment. The validity of this approach was proven in the October War, with military experts agreeing that the Egyptian warrior was the most dangerous weapon used in those hostilities. Then, our soldiers used shoulder-mounted missiles to knock out Israeli tanks. The missile cost $80, the Israeli tank $1 million.