The Arab countries immediately bordering Israel are ramping up weapons spending. The US government is pumping more military aid into Jordan and Lebanon. Egypt has launched a new wave of purchases of American-made helicopters and fighters, and also could tap China and Russia to restock its military arsenal.

Weapons sales in the former Levant are driven mainly by US military aid, including $1.7 billion pledged in 2010 alone.

The dominant share of that spending goes to Egypt, due to receive $1.3 billion in foreign military financing that requires the purchase of US-made equipment. Since the aid programme began after the 1978 Camp David peace accords, Egypt has acquired 220 Lockheed Martin F-16s and 36 Boeing AH-64 Apaches.

Earlier this year, Egypt announced plans to add six Boeing CH-47F Chinooks and 12 more AH-64D Apache Longbows to its inventories in deals totalling $1.1 billion. In June, Lockheed executives also predicted Egypt could buy up to 24 new F-16s, but the timing for the orders appears to have slid to at least 2011.

Dassault Rafale 
© Dassault 
 The UAE and Kuwait are in final discussions to acquire dozens of Dassault Rafales

In addition to financing aid, the US also donates surplus military equipment to Egypt. In the past, this has included mainly naval systems, such as Perry- and Knox-class frigates. But Egypt is expecting to receive surplus Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes from the US Navy after the first operational E-2Ds are fielded next year.

Egypt's weapons procurement is dominated by US aid, but the balance could shift slightly towards Russia and China. Egypt is reportedly in talks with Russia to import the S-300 air defence system also sought by Iran. China and Pakistan, meanwhile, have targeted Egypt as a likely export customer for the FC-1/JF-17, a potential replacement for Egypt's MiG-21 fleet.

Jordan's military aid from the US government is also rising from about $200 million to $300 million in fiscal year 2010. Military aircraft do not appear to be a major priority in Amman. The country is instead focused on border security, especially along its strategic borders with Iraq and Syria.

Jordan is another Arab country apparently receptive to Russian sales proposals, including a recently reported order for two Ilyushin Il-76MFs.

Lebanon's armed forces may be historically the most neglected in the Middle East, but improvements are coming rapidly. The United Arab Emirates donated 10 Eurocopter Puma helicopters in 2007. The USA, which is pledging $100 million aid this year, reportedly plans to offer armed Cessna Caravan transports.

Officials in Beirut also could seek to acquire light attack fighters and trainers that the US Air Force is considering, such as the Beechcraft AT-6C or Embraer Super Tucano.

Source: Flight International