The United States will deliver eight F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in an effort to help the country fight extremism and to bolster security in the region, according to a statement on Thursday from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The aircraft are part of a $1.3 billion plan to upgrade Egypt's military amid increased extremist threats.
The jets are being flown to Egypt and will become a part of the country's air force, which already features U.S.-made F-16 aircraft. "The F-16s provide a valuable capability that is needed during these times of regional instability," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Charles Hooper, the U.S. Embassy's senior defense official in Cairo. "America’s commitment to a strong relationship with Egypt is demonstrated by continued cooperation and capability-sharing between our two countries. Extremists threaten regional security and these weapon systems provide a new tool to help Egypt fight terrorism."
Egyptian forces have frequently battled with militants in the Sinai Peninsula region during July, including a rocket attack Saturday that killed a solider and injured five more, the Associated Press reported. The militant group Wilayat Sinai has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State group and is growing in its abilities, the newspaper Hareetz reported. The group carried out its deadliest attacks in early July, with 17 soldiers and 100 militants killed during the fighting, the BBC reported.
Egypt is the second-largest recipient of military aid from the United States, receiving about 0.2 percent of all funding to foreign countries through the Foreign Military Funding program, Forbes reported. The United States ended a freeze on military aid to the country in late March, two years after delivery of equipment was halted because the Egyptian military had taken power in Cairo. The U.S. said it would send modern equipment that focused on counterterrorism.
"In this way, we will ensure that U.S. funding is being used to promote shared objectives in the region, including a secure and stable Egypt and the defeat of terrorist organizations," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement, via Reuters.
The United States will send four more F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the fall and provide follow-up support for the country's air force, the embassy statement said.