Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Flying high

Commander of the Egyptian Air Force Younis Al-Masry describes its dedication and expertise in an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly


14 October was Egyptian Air Force Day, held each year to commemorate the Battle of Mansoura, a high point of the 1973 War against Israel. The war marked a turning point in the history of the Egyptian Armed Forces, commander of the Egyptian Air Force Younis Al-Masry told Ahmed Eleiba, adding that “the lessons that were learned from it continue to inspire us and serve as a point of departure for the future.”

The Air Force has upgraded its capacities in order to ensure that it retains its qualitative superiority as one of the foremost forces in the Middle East, Al-Masry said. This was part of the comprehensive development programme being implemented across the board in the Egyptian Armed Forces over the past four years, he added.

Recent developments in the region and domestically have spurred the Armed Forces’ development drive in view of the mounting risks and dangers that compel military involvement in many and diverse operations. Such demands, Al-Masry said, have also necessitated a programme of joint manoeuvres and training exercises with regional and international partners to hone diverse skills and enhance preparedness.

According to Al-Masry, the Air Force’s development programme consists of three main focal areas: the individual combatant; the aircraft and equipment and armaments systems; and the infrastructure.

Efforts to develop the capacities of the individual combatant began several years ago, he said. Assistant trainers were brought in and theoretical and practical training courses were organised at home and abroad to ensure that members of the Air Force acquired the necessary expertise and know-how in aerospace technology and hardware.

“We have in our Air Force flight and technical crews equipped with the latest technology and the ability to handle the most sophisticated weapons systems in the world,” Al-Masry said. “Their excellence has been seen in all the activities in which they have participated.”

In the area of upgrading and developing hardware and equipment, the Air Force has implemented an armaments programme that aims to acquire the best state-of-the-art military aircraft and weapons systems produced in the world today. Meanwhile, “technical and maintenance crews have been working indefatigably to maintain and upgrade the existing aircraft and machinery in our arsenals to keep them at optimum performance conditions.”

In infrastructure, a comprehensive plan to develop and upgrade airports and Air Force bases was drawn up and put into effect four years ago. “Today, we are reaping the fruit of these efforts as we inaugurate several airbases and airports upon the completion of the development and construction work,” he said, adding that “work has been carried out to complete a total overhaul of infrastructure, airfields and technical and administrative facilities.”

Replying to a question on whether there were plans for new aircraft acquisition, Al-Masry underscored the need to keep pace with the latest technological advances in the field and to replace aircraft that had to be retired from service. Pointing to the recently acquired French-made Mistral-class helicopter carriers, named the “Gamal Abdel-Nasser” and the “Anwar Al-Sadat”, he explained how these acquisitions had enabled the Armed Forces to undertake combat operations in multiple and diverse strategic directions “which augment the ability of our Armed Forces to safeguard our national and regional security against any threats”.

In tandem with the development of its fleet of combat planes and helicopters, the Air Force has also been working to upgrade and develop navigation, defence and logistics systems and equipment. This has included the addition of EADS CASA C-295 transport planes, general purpose helicopters, and aircraft guidance systems. With all these efforts, Al-Masry said, the Egyptian Air Force “will soon be one of the strongest in the Middle East.”

On the needs and challenges presented by the various theatres of operation domestically and within the Egyptian strategic sphere, Al-Masry said that “with the 25 January and 30 June revolutions there emerged new requirements and needs to defend the country at home and abroad and to sustain the stability of daily life for the people.”

“Events have imposed additional tasks upon the Air Force in the interest of enhancing the security of our borders in all strategic directions, countering terrorist elements and stopping cross-border arms and drugs smuggling operations from all directions,” he pointed out.

“The prominent role our Air Force plays is also manifested in the daily operations it undertakes to eliminate terrorist groups in North and Central Sinai, as well as in its operations to intercept terrorist elements attempting to infiltrate across our western border from Libya and to uproot terrorism and destroy terrorist lairs in all strategic directions.”

The Air Force is adding “new chapters to its heroic work through its effective participation in the Martyr’s Right Operation” in Sinai, Al-Masry said. This is an ongoing military operation conducted by the Armed Forces in cooperation with the National Police and aimed at rooting out jihadist militants.

“Our Air Force always wins the admiration of brotherly and friendly nations. This is apparent in the expressions of desire on the part of many countries to partner with our Air Force in joint exercises aimed at the transfer and exchange of combat skills and expertise,” he said.

Additionally, the Egyptian Air Force engages in numerous joint exercises with friendly nations during the year, such as the Yarmuk manoeuvres with Kuwait, the Zayed 2 joint training exercise with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Hamad exercises with Bahrain, the Faisal operations with Saudi Arabia, the Medusa manoeuvres with Greece, and the Bright Star manoeuvres with the US.

“In the framework of these exercises we benefit from the exchange of expertise and diverse combat skills that enhances our combat capacities,” he said.

The Air Force has taken great pains to optimise the gains from these activities, Al-Masry said. “In the process, it closely observes how the other participant forces prepare and execute combat operations in order to deepen our insights and disseminate know-how among the rest of the Armed Forces.”

He stressed that the Faisal 11 operations that Egypt concluded some weeks ago had been one of the strongest joint exercises to have taken place recently. Numerous types of multipurpose aircraft from the Egyptian Air Force participated, he said.

This year also saw the first-ever participation of the multipurpose Rafale aircraft in joint exercises with brotherly nations, he pointed out. “Also new were the defensive and offensive tasks involving the use of live ammunition that were organised for the final stage of the activities,” he said.

Al-Masry highlighted that the Air Force had remained keen to put itself at the service of civil society. One of its ongoing activities was to contribute to the fight against the cultivation of narcotics, which it performs in close collaboration with the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Narcotics Department. In addition, Air Force aircraft have helped carry out aerial survey photography for national road construction projects.

The Air Force has also come to the assistance of civil society during exceptional events. For example, due to the security conditions following the 30 June Revolution it helped transport judges to supervise elections. It has also helped transport secondary school exam papers to and from testing locations, especially those in the more remote areas of the country, Al-Masry concluded.

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