WASHINGTON (May. 14)
New intelligence reports indicate an increase in the number of Russian pilots in Egypt, it was disclosed here today. American and other Western sources report that about 100 Soviet pilots were sent there in recent weeks to man three or four squadrons of jet interceptors. They are in addition to 70-80 pilots known to have been in Egypt for some time training Egyptian flyers. Some of the latest model Soviet MIGs were reportedly flown to Egypt by the new pilots. Some intelligence sources estimate the strength of the Soviet military advisory force in Egypt at 8000-10,000 men. Other sources place it at 6000 men who, with their families, comprise a 20,000-member Russian colony in Egypt. At the beginning of the year there were believed to have been no more than 2500-4000 Russians aiding the Nasser regime.
State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said today that there was no confirmation of reports that 100 more Soviet pilots and a Soviet armored brigade have been sent to Egypt, He said it was difficult to come by specific figures in either of these categories. He said it was known that many additional Russian personnel went to Egypt with the SAM-3 anti-aircraft missiles but there was no way of telling the exact number. He confirmed that Soviet shipments of equipment to Egypt were continuing, (In London, Evan Luard, joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said in the House of Commons yesterday that on the basis of available information, “combat ready aircraft manned by Soviet pilots are now operating over certain areas of the UAR.” He did not elaborate. A British spokesman had said last week that Britain had no independent confirmation of Israeli and other intelligence reports that Soviet pilots were flying missions over Egypt.)
According to the intelligence reports, the Russian force includes entire air defense missile and antiaircraft gun crews and an armored brigade of Russian troops to defend missile sites against possible Israeli commando raids. The latest intelligence places the number of SAM-3 anti-aircraft missile sites under construction at 20, comprising 160 missile launchers. At least 40 SAM-3 sites are considered necessary to properly defend Cairo, Alexandria and the Aswan High Dam, sources here said. Russian pilots are said to be operating from bases west of the Nile River, located near Alexandria and well south of Cairo. They reportedly take to the air in Egyptian MIGs when Israeli jets take off for bombing raids on the Suez Canal zone. Israeli intelligence supplied the United States with evidence last month that Soviet pilots were flying missions over Egypt. The evidence was corroborated independently by the U.S. But American sources concede that the information is “sketchy” and in some cases open to dispute.