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The Nile Egypt's other existential crisis

Tigrai Online, July 16, 2013

Ethiopia is also discussing with Russia the purchase of 18 modernized SU-30 jet fighters
Ethiopia is also discussing with Russia the purchase of 18 modernized SU-30 jet fighters to further beef up an air force that is regarded as one of the most capable on the continent

So serious is the concern that, before the anti-government demonstrations and the Egyptian army's coup earlier this month, it was the Nile conflict that dominated news coverage in Egypt, fed by increasingly strident threats from officials and politicians.

"If we lose one drop, our blood is the alternative," then-president Mohammed Morsi vowed, shortly before his overthrow, a barely veiled threat of war echoed by, among others, the country's foreign minister.

The idea sounds incredible. But not to diplomats in the region who noted in early June a live television broadcast from Morsi's office that inadvertently picked up the president and senior political leaders discussing a possible pre-emptive attack on Ethiopia.

The military alternatives ranged from an Egyptian air attack on the dam construction sites to guerrilla sabotage and even moves to destabilize the Addis Ababa government.

When Ethiopia demanded an explanation of the broadcast, Morsi was unapologetic, vowing that "all options are open."

For its part, Ethiopia appears to doubt that Egypt has the capability to launch a direct attack against its own capable military, especially as the two countries are separated by the vast, harsh terrain of Northern Sudan.

However, Northern Sudan, along with Eritrea to Ethiopia's north, both side with Egypt in this dispute, so the Ethiopian government can't ignore Egypt's ability to at least stir up the kind of guerrilla activity that could dramatically escalate the crisis.

A military diversion?

Taking no chances Ethiopia has just rushed through a 15 per cent increase in its defence budget.

It is also discussing with Russia the purchase of 18 modernized SU-30 jet fighters to further beef up an air force that is regarded as one of the most capable on the continent. (Ethiopian pilots now train South Africa's.)

Most analysts doubt this so-called "river conflict" will lead to actual war. However, we do live in exceptionally unpredictable times as the upheavals across North Africa and the civil war in Syria clearly show.

What is particularly worrisome right now is that the new military-backed government in Cairo may be strongly tempted to use such a dangerous foreign crisis to try to cool off demonstrations at home and unite its deeply divided population.

The pro-army elements in Cairo may well conclude that a period of sabre-rattling over so vital a resource would also allow Egypt's currently hard-pressed military to again parade itself in a "national guardian" role.

Source: CBC Canada - http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/07/12/f-vp-stewart-egypt-nile.html

About SU-30 Fighter jets

The Sukhoi Su-30 is a twin engine two seat fighter aircraft. It is a higher version of the Sukhoi Su-27. The fighter aircraft was introduced first in 1996. China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Uganda, and Algeria have Su-30. The Russian Air force also operates many of the Su-30s.

Armament and Range

The Su-30 can fly for 3000 km or 1620 nmi and it is capable of fueling on the air.

  • Guns: 1 × GSh-30-1 gun (30 mm calibre, 150 rounds)
  • AAMs: 6 × R-27ER1 (AA-10C), 2 × R-27ET1 (AA-10D), 6 × R-73E (AA-11), 6 × R-77 RVV-AE (AA-12) (24 different sizes and types of guns)
  • ASMs: 6 × Kh-31P/Kh-31A anti-radar/ship missiles, 6 × Kh-29T/L laser guided missiles, 2 × Kh-59ME
  • Aerial bombs: 6 × KAB 500KR, 3 × KAB-1500KR, 8 × FAB-500T, 28 × OFAB-250-270, nuclear bombs (45 different sizes and types of bombs)

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