Russian-Egyptian Cooperation in the War on Terror
Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay analyzes the strategic relations between Egypt
and Russia following the conclusion of the joint naval exercise between the
two countries, codenamed “Defenders of Friendship 2016″
Dr. Shaul Shay 9/11/2016
Exercise “Defenders of Friendship 2016,” a joint Russian-Egyptian
counter-terrorist exercise, took place in the territory of the Arab Republic
of Egypt in the area between the city of Alexandria and El Alamein, on
October 15-26, 2016.
It was the first joint Russia-Egypt anti-terrorism military exercise, based
on earlier agreements between Russia and Egypt. In June 2015, Russian and
Egyptian navy forces conducted their first-ever joint naval drills in the
Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria.
According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, exercise “Defenders of Friendship
2016,” involved six airfields and 15 helicopters and planes. During the
drills, Russia’s Ilyushin-76MD transport planes dropped five combat vehicles
BMD-2 and one armored personnel carrier BTR-D and about 300 Russian and
Egyptian paratroops parachuted themselves. Russian and Egyptian paratroopers
practiced localization and elimination of militant groups in desert
conditions. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a new uniform for hot
climate had been developed for servicemen who were participating in military
drills with the Egyptian army.
The exercise has been controlled by operation groups of both countries from
the joint command center, which had been formed at the El Hammam military
The Main Stages of the Exercise
October 18, 2016: The Russian Airborne servicemen have left the al-Umaed
military base of the Egyptian Armed Forces in order to hold joint day and
night firing with small arms at the Alam al-Hadem range. Through co-firing
was used a range of weapons ranging from throwing knives for a stealthy
destruction of enemy forces, until anti-tank grenade launchers and assault
rifles. Military servicemen of both countries have performed more than 600
firing tasks and engaged more than 800 targets at different distances.
October 19, 2016: About 200 servicemen of the Russian and Egyptian Airborne
troops have performed joint landing operation from the altitudes of 2,000,
6,000 and 7,000 feet. Joint landing operation was held with the use of D-10,
T-10V, Arbalet, and MS-5 parachute systems from Il-76MD aircraft of the
Russian Aerospace Forces as well as from C-130 and CASA ones of the Egyptian
Armed Forces on the Tallet landing site.
On the same day, Russian and Egyptian servicemen attended special medical
training. The exercise participants practiced providing medical assistance
in conditions of modern combined-arms combat in the desert. The paratroopers
also got familiarized with methods of extreme medicine used by the Russian
October 21, 2016: Russian Airborne servicemen familiarized the Egyptian
counterparts with capabilities of Russian transport aircraft. They
demonstrated different ways of loading combat hardware into Il-76MD
transport. Russian military servicemen informed their counterparts how to
embark more than 40 types of equipment, including self-propelled guns,
howitzers, special vehicles, and heavy wheeled and tracked hardware, for
October 24, 2016: In the main phase of the Russia-Egypt exercise, Russian
Airborne troops and Egyptian Airborne troops practiced locating and
eliminating illegal armed formations in conditions of desert and liberating
Egypt – Russia Joint Navy Exercise “Friendship Bridge 2015″
On June 2015, Russia and Egypt conducted the first joint naval exercise,
codenamed the “Friendship Bridge 2015.”
Russia and Egypt have commenced their joint naval exercise off the
Mediterranean Egyptian port of Alexandria, as part of efforts to strengthen
the military cooperation between the countries.
The Russian side was represented by the ships of the Black Sea and Baltic
Fleets. The Russian vessels in the exercise included the guided missile
cruiser Moskva and the catamaran missile corvette Samum, the tanker Ivan
Bubnov and landing ship Alexander Shahalin.
Egypt’s ships in the “Friendship Bridge 2015″ exercises included the
frigates Taba, Dumyat and Sharm El-Sheik, two missile patrol boats, April 25
and June 18 and two F-16 fighters.
The coastal staff of both navies has been located in the “United Control
Centre” of the Navy of Egypt. The Moskva cruiser was the exercise flagship,
housing the mobile headquarters. Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian
Black Sea Fleet Vice Admiral Valery Kulikov and chief of the Egyptian Navy’s
combat training department Lt. Gen. Mahmud Mufarrah were in command of the
The eight-day exercise has covered: supply and communications at sea, search
operations, as well as all forms of defense at sea and firing exercises.
During the exercise, Russian and Egyptian Navy ships performed protection
tasks over sea routes against different kinds of threats.
“According to the exercise joint command, crew members of the two countries’
warships drilled maneuvering in column at the exit from the Alexandria naval
base, successfully conducted an exercise to repel an attack of a small
target, and in accordance with the set parameters and standards conducted a
joint air defense drill in the area of operations with the involvement of
the F-16 fighters of the Egyptian Air Force,” Russian Navy spokesman said.
For the Russian crew, it was a good opportunity to practice the drills on
the US made modern aircraft.
The joint “Defenders of Friendship 2016″ exercise should be analyzed on the
background of three main strategic developments: The Russian “come back” to
the Middle East as a dominant player, Egypt as a regional power and the
international cooperation in the war against terror.
Russia: In last years, one of the most significant geostrategic developments
in the Middle East has been Russia’s increasing political and military
involvement. Aside from its deepening military and political involvement in
Syria, Russia is improving its relations with Egypt.
As Russia’s military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean grows, it was the
first-ever deployment of Russian Airborne Troops stocked with their own
weapons and equipment on the African continent and one of the first
opportunities for the Russian paratroopers to participate in the joint
exercise held in the territories in a desert of North Africa.
The joint military exercise is significant for Russia’s gradual reemergence
as a major player in the Middle East. Egypt is a regional power in the
unstable Middle East and strategic cooperation with Egypt is a significant
step toward reasserting a regional role that Russia has not enjoyed since
Egypt: Russia is one of the main non-Arab supporters of El-Sisi’s government
and was among the first countries to endorse El-Sisi’s presidential bid in
2014. Cairo has sought to strengthen its ties with Moscow, against the
backdrop of strained ties with its long-time ally Washington, since the
ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. Egypt, though
interested in forming stronger relations with Russia, primarily seek to
signal to the international community that its foreign policy is not to be
dictated by others.
Diversifying the sources of Egypt’s armaments became a priority among state
strategists after the 30 June Revolution. Overreliance on one provider was
now seen as shortsighted. Egypt was also keen to ensure its armaments policy
responded to international political developments, including the growing
influence of China and Russia.
The “Defenders of Friendship-2016″ exercise is a significant step in the
fast-growing strategic alliance between Egypt and Russia. Egypt and Russia
have never been that close since the era of late President Gamal Abdel
Nasser, referring to the level of economic and military cooperation.
Cooperation in the war against terror: The Middle East has witnessed an
increase in military exercises in recent years, and Egypt is part of this
trend. The rise in joint exercises can be explained in light of the
increasing intensity of terror threats faced by those countries.
Exercise “Defenders of Friendship-2016,” was monitored by representatives of
more than 30 countries, among them military observers from 25 countries, as
well as ambassadors of CSTO.
Military cooperation and joint exercises are part of the Egyptian foreign
policy and strategy, and Egypt has carried out 30 joint military exercises
in 2016 with 20 Arab and African countries, as well as European countries
including France and Russia.