WASHINGTON (Aug. 1)
The State Department maintained strict silence today on reports that the Carter Administration has agreed secretly to help Egypt refurbish its fleet of some 200 MIG combat aircraft so that they will not have to rely on spare parts which the Soviet Union no longer supplies to Egypt. Department spokesman John Trattner refused to confirm or deny the reports and would make no comments when questioned by reporters.
The Boston Globe reported yesterday that according to Congressional sources, the Administration approved an arrangement whereby two U.S. defense contractors would provide technical expertise to help the Egyptians modernize the aging MIGs. This would include replacing their original engines with more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey jet engines. According to the Globe, a “senior Administration official” confirmed that the report was generally correct but “too sensitive” to discuss at this time.
The Globe story said, “When completed, the rebuilding effort would not only solve Egypt’s mounting problem of how to keep its front line Russian combat aircraft operating without Soviet spare parts, but it also should improve the overall performance of the MIGs.”
ONLY U.S. KNOW-HOW INVOLVED
The report said that Rolls-Royce, a British firm, declined the rebuilding job. Instead, two American firms, one an aircraft manufacturer and the other an engine manufacturer, were approached to participate in the project. The firms were not identified. The report noted that only American know-how, not equipment, would be involved.
It said that President Anwar Sadat of Egypt has been under heavy pressure from his military “to swallow his pride and patch up his relations with Moscow in order to check a continuing deterioration of Egypt’s armed forces.” According to the Globe, even with improvements, the MIGs would be inferior to Israel’s American-made F-4 Phantom jets and therefore the military balance in the Middle East would not be affected by the deal.
The Globe report followed by a few days confirmation by the State Department that discussions were underway between key members of Congress and the Administration on a projected sale of military reconnaissance and transport planes to Egypt costing more than $200 million and that Egyptian military officers would be trained at staff level schools in the U.S. at a cost of $100,000.