Enemy Warplanes over Ethiopian Skies: Can Egypt Project Military Power over Ethiopian Territory?

This is adapted from the post Scenario Generation, Muslim Brotherhood, and Electricity for Peace.

Can Egypt-Ethiopia war cause the downfall of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi?

Ethiopia’s highly mobile medium-range SPYDER air-defense system can shoot down Egyptian Rafale and F-16 warplanes flying over Ethiopian skies

If Egypt invades Ethiopia, it’s goal will be to prosecute a total war that will topple the Ethiopian government and bring to power a government friendly to Cairo. If Tigray secedes, then Egypt can secure rights to host military bases that can serve as launchpads for invasion of Ethiopia, including bases for conducting air raids against Ethiopian armored formations. It’s highly unlikely the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) will bomb the dam or even it destroy by military means, and the reason for this is explained here.

To secure reliable supply routes, the EAF may have to help Tigrayan ethno-nationalists to invade Eritrea and capture seaports that will give the EAF access to the Eritrean coast where the Egyptian Navy can resupply the EAF troops, as well as allow Egyptian warships and submarines to harass merchant ships carrying goods destined for Ethiopia. This can also allow Egypt to deploy any of its Mistral-class amphibious assault ship as a helicopter carrier and mobile airbase, thereby giving EAF the power to limit Ethiopia’s access to international shipping.

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In any type of long-distance military campaign, Egypt will be hard pressed with logistic challenges and surmounting costs of moving tens of thousands of Egyptian soldiers from their bases in the Nile Delta to Sudan (which will most likely ally itself with Egypt) and Northern Ethiopia. For its naval and air assets that can be based in Berenice Military Base, which is less than 1000 kilometers from GERD; their effectiveness will be limited if Egypt cannot gain a lodgement in Ethiopia or a beachhead in Eritrea. Moreover, initial air raids against GERD will require Egyptian warplanes to confront the non-stationary, radar-equipped air defense nest made up of road-mobile, quick-reaction SPYDER systems that Israel installed in 2019.

SPYDER can easily shoot down Egyptian Rafale and F-16 warplanes, thus blunting Egyptian’s advantage of air superiority. Additionally, Egypt would need to get overflight clearance from Sudan, Djibouti, or Somaliland; and this can easily tip-off Ethiopian intelligence. Without this air cover, Egyptian ground troops — who are relatively inexperienced in mounting large-scale, coordinated long-distance ground campaign — will have trouble holding territory for long, especially if Ethiopia enforces mass mobilization and launches a counter-offensive.

Furthermore, the capability of Egyptian Air Force to operate far from Egyptian soil has been tested in Libya, and it can be deduced that its impact in helping Egypt’s ally, General Khalifa Haftar, to rollback armed Islamists backing the Government of National Accord has been limited. In Sinai, Egyptian special forces, including the vaunted Thunderbolt units, have suffered setbacks in their campaign against Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which later became the Islamic State — Sinai Province (Wilayat Sinai).

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