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Report Drop in Defense Spending by Egypt and Israel but Massive Hikes by Saudi Arabia and Libya

September 1, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

While there has been a dramatic drop in the defense expenditure of both Israel and Egypt, the current year saw massive increases by Saudi Arabia and Libya.

Figures in “The Military Balance 1978-9,” published tomorrow by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, show Israel spending $3.13 billion, the lowest since before the Yom Kippur War five years ago. Last year’s figure was $4.2 billion.

Egypt’s defense spending, according to the report, is officially down to $2.81 billion from $4.37 billion last year, the period which began before President Anwar Sadat’s peace initiative.

Saudi Arabia’s defense spending in 1978-9 is put at $9.63 billion, compared with $7.5 billion last year. The increase covers major arms orders, including those for 174 American M60 medium tanks, 45 F-15 fighters and 15 TF fighters, as well as a wide range of sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

Libya, whose spending is slated to be doubled–from $229 million to $448 million-is credited with 2,000 Soviet tanks of the T-54 and T-62 varieties. This is a rise of no fewer than 1,800 tanks in the past year, although its armed forces number only 30,000 men (22,000 last year).


Syria, Israel’s other main front-line antagonist, will also increase defense spending–but only marginally–$1,12 billion from $1.07 billion. There is no major alteration in her forces, size or deployment.

The huge resources available to the Arab oil states are also reflected in the fact that, for the first time, Saudi Arabia will overtake Israel as the country with the world’s highest per capita arms bill. The Saudi figure for 1978-9 is $1,704, while the figure spent for every Israeli will be $887 dollars. Last year, per capita spending in Israel was $1,176 and in Saudi Arabia $1,005.

Although the Egyptian expenditure appears to be lower, there are suspicions that it is being bolstered by the Saudi arms acquisitions. Between July 1977 and July 1978, the report identifies eight major Egyptian arms deals–with Britain, France, Italy and the U.S. Britain is supplying Egypt with Swingfire anti-tank missiles worth $35 million and Lynx helicopters worth $595 million, as well as patrol boats and hovercraft. France will sell her 14 Mirage fighters, Italy two frigates and the U.S. 50 F-5 fighters.

Saudi Arabia’s suppliers are the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan. The Soviet Union remains a leading supplier to Syria, Libya and Iraq, although these countries also signed deals with Western countries as well.

The report notes that all Israel’s major overseas arms purchases have been with the U.S., which is to supply her with 15 F-15 fighters, 75 F-16s, 18 Ahlj helicopters and two Flagstaff hydrofoils. The report shows that two more submarines have been taken into service by the Israeli navy (which now deploys three). The navy also has six Reshef armed patrol craft, with a range of 4000 miles, greater than any other equivalent vessel afloat.

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