On 30 June each year, the air defence forces celebrate their annual anniversary. This date coincides with the establishment of the missile shield which countered the Israeli air attacks on Egyptian cities in 1970. 30 June also marks the establishment of the Egyptian air defence system, which is now the shield that protects the country.
Commander Abdel Moneim Ibrahim Bayoumi El-Tarras, commander of the Air Defence Forces, answered many questions on the ability of air defence to protect the Egyptian sky from attacks.
Why was 30 June chosen as a celebration day of the Air Defence Forces?
According to the presidential decree No. 199 issued on the first of February 1968, the establishment of Air Defence Forces began, making it represent the fourth force in our brave armed forces.
The missile shield was created under the pressure of the continuous air attacks by the enemy that used the latest aircraft (Phantom, Skyhawks), which had a high potential compared to the aircrafts that were available at the time.
Through the realistic training, in terms of the real battles during the War of Attrition, the Air Defence Forces managed to drop many aircrafts of the enemy during the first week of July in 1970. Many Israeli pilots were captured, and it was the first time a Phantom aircraft fell. That week was called “Phantom falling” and victories of air forces were successive afterwards.
30 June 1970 was the real beginning of reclaiming land and dignity by establishing the missile shield which prevented the enemy’s planes from approaching the sky of the home front, so the air forces made that day its celebration day.
What does the term missile shield mean?
A missile shield is a diversified combat assembly of missiles and anti-aircraft artillery (in successive formats inside the fortified sites) capable of repelling and destroying enemy aircrafts. This is in the framework of providing air defence for the main assembly of land formations, vital targets, air bases, and airports west of the [Suez] Canal. It also has the ability to achieve an extension of the areas under its range by not less than 15km east of the Canal.
These sites were built and fortified in preparation for the introduction of the anti-aircraft missiles, under very hard circumstances. There was a conflict between the extended arms of Israel represented in its air forces, and the Egyptian armed forces in cooperation with civil construction companies in the light of providing air defence for construction sites with anti-aircraft artillery. Despite the great sacrifices of the men of anti-aircraft artillery, the enemy often succeeded in striking or destroy what has been built.
So the men of the air defence conducted the study, planned and worked continuously to complete this mission. It was agreed that the missile shield would be built by following one of two options. The first option was jumping forward with the missile shield brigades in one go and occupying advanced field sites without fortification, and bear the expected losses until the fortifications are built. The second option was the “Slow Crawling style” by fortifying each zone and occupying it under the protection of the zone behind it, and this is what was decided upon. So, the first zone sites were established in east Cairo, and were secured without any reaction from the enemy.
It was then planned to occupy three new zones that extended over half the distance between east of the Canal and Cairo, and these works were done successfully and in full consistency and high accuracy.
As a result, the enemy did not dare approach the Suez Canal and this was the true beginning of preparing for the liberation war, [which happened] in complete freedom and without air intervention from the enemy.
How did the Egyptian air defence destroy the legend of Israel’s air forces in the October War in 1973?
The talk about the October 1973 War does not end, and if we want to narrate and record all the events, it will need many books, so we will only mention a fragment of the Air Defence Forces.
In order to highlight the role of the Air Defence Forces, we first need to know the position of the Israeli air force and their high level of combat efficiency and sophisticated modern weaponisation.
The planning for organising and arming the Israeli air force started early, as Israel armed these forces with the latest arms from the air artillery at that time.
They did so by purchasing Mirage aircrafts from France, and they contracted with the United States to buy Phantom and Skyhawk aircrafts until their number of different types of aircrafts reached 600 before 1973.
The reason behind this is that the Israeli Air Forces had the time and capabilities to prepare after the year 1956 and their false victory in 1967. They also got large numbers of aircrafts during the War of Attrition.
The Egyptian Air Defence Forces had to stand for all these aircrafts, as the men of the Air Defence Forces showed epic resistance, defiance, heroism, and sacrifice. They continued to build the missile shield until 1970 under the pressure of the continuous enemy air attacks.
During the months of April, May, June, July, and August of the year 1970, the anti-aircraft missiles brigades were able to drop and destroy more than 12 Phantoms, Skyhawks, and Mirages.
This forced Israel to accept Roger’s initiative for ceasefire starting from 8 August 1970, and the Air Defence Forces started preparing for the liberation war and for restoring their land and dignity.
A number of SA-3 Pechora missiles arrived and were given to the air defence by the end of 1970. During ceasefire, the air defence defeated the enemy when it hit a Stratocruiser on the morning of 17 September 1971. SA-2 and SA-6 missiles also joined the force to complete building a wall of missiles to prepare for the war of independence. The air defence’s mission was extremely hard because the field of operations was not only the Suez Canal but also in the whole country, including its vital political and economic targets, air force base, airports, marine base, and strategic ports.
On the first day of the battle, 6 October 1973, Israel attacked the Egyptian forces with a number of fighters. [Egypt} fought back by the missile units and anti-aircraft artilleries. They managed to struck 25 aircrafts, hit few more, and capture a number of pilots. In light of this, the Israeli Air Force Commander ordered two aircrafts not to fly 15 kilometres near the Suez Canal.
In the morning of 7 October 1973, the enemy struck an air attack on the air force base, airports, and radar battalions but it failed and cost them more aircrafts and pilots. In the first three days of the war, the enemy lost more than two-thirds of its aircrafts and the most efficient pilots. The epic fight was in favour of the Air Defence Forces, which led defence minister at that time Moshe Dayan to announce the issues facing the Israeli air forces.
In 14 October 1973, the minister said that the Israeli air forces are fighting a huge battle full of blood.
What was the air defence’s role in 25 January 2011 and 30 June revolutions?
The air defence is one of the main entities of the Egyptian military. The entity is spread all over the country and its central leadership units work for 24 hours. The nature of its work requires the presence of its combat units at all times.
Thus, it carried the burden of following up with the current events continuously, and it has a great role in receiving all the reports on all issues, as well as participating in arresting some fugitives and vandals.
The Air Defence Forces has taken part in securing all elections since 25 January 2011. They also protected the vital missions and participated in securing the state’s buildings and facilities according to the capabilities and authorities granted. The air defence’s troops also do air surveillance on the Egyptian borders to report any infiltration, whether on land, sea, or air, in an integral system with the border guards.
The Air Defence Forces also secure air force combats during missions of fighting terrorism in Sinai, in light of the threats against peace in the region and the political instability due to the Arab revolutions in the neighbouring countries.
Firstly, I would like to clear something out; we as military men work according to plans, programmes, and clear targets. However, at the same time we look at everything surrounding us in the region, the threats against peace and the turmoil it poses on the future. This is all put into our consideration.
However, the Egyptian armed forces will forever keep its mission, programmes, and system in maintaining its efficiency in peace and war times. When we talk about readiness for fight, we are talking about a continuous mission for the forces day and night.
Maintaining readiness for fighting is done through getting the information from the air enemy continuously, the accurate regulation of communication media, readiness of the main and alternative leadership centres to manage the fight and maintain technical efficiency of weapons and equipment. All these elements are regulated under full military control and high spirit. The air defence elements’ participation in helping the rest of the Egyptian military entities in securing the internal front and the democratic transformation of the country is one of its secondary roles without prejudice to the main missions.
The Egyptian armed forces is keen on military cooperation, which is one of the main pillars of development in many Arab and foreign countries, how can this be applied in the air defence?
The Air Defence Forces is keen on using modern technology in the military field through diversifying weapon sources and developing equipment and weapons to utilise the military cooperation in its different fields. This would be done through developing the weapons and equipment, as well as attempting to get the best weapons from the global arms arsenal. This way we would be able to achieve our mission. In light of this, military cooperation is regulated through two routes.
The first route:
The cooperation in developing and modernising the weapons and equipment to achieve development in fighting capabilities for the forces as well as conducting the works of development required from the Air Defence Forces conform the Egyptian fight system. It also comprises increasing the lifespan of the equipment conform a determined and continuous plan.
The second route:
The cooperation in executing joint exercises with the brotherly and friendly Arab countries in order to gain experience and know about the latest methods of planning and managing operations in these countries. The Air Defence Forces always seeks to increase the axes of cooperation in all fields (training, development and modernisation).
We move in these directions in accordance with a plan that is prepared in advance, which leads to continue the development works for the Air Defence Forces on the level of gear or the way of usage.
The Air Defence Forces constitutes an integrated system including a lot of different systems; what are the elements, features and requirements of building this system?
The system of the Air Defence Forces consists of a number of elements: reconnaissance, alert, and positive elements allowing the leaders to take the procedures aiming at depriving the enemy from carrying out its mission, or to destroy it through the air defence means. These are spread over the country in fixed and sometimes mobile locations, due to the nature of the vital targets, and the places that need to be covered by the air defence.
Executing the missions of the Air Defence Forces requires the cooperation of different systems in order to form an integrated system. These include the different radar devices that carry out the work of detection and alert, in addition to the air traffic control elements, and the positive elements of the different missiles, like the shoulder-fired missiles, in addition to the fighters, and the elements of the electronic warfare.
The Air Defence Forces system is being controlled by an integrated system for the command and control through leading and control centres on the different levels, in close cooperation with the air forces and the Electronic Warfare [division]. The aim is to keep a constant pressure on the aerial enemy, and to prevent it from achieving its goals, in addition to incurring it as much losses as possible.
Building a system of Air Defence Forces comes through the balance between the system’s elements, and their effectiveness and ability to confront the aerial enemy, in addition to the integration between the elements of the system.
The tremendous development in the ways of collecting information, and the increasing number of sources revealed the secrets of the weaponry systems in most of the world’s countries. In your opinion, what is the solution in order to keep information about the weaponry systems of the Air Defence Forces secret?
It is normal in these times that the limitations of acquiring information do not exist anymore, as the different means of acquiring them became available, whether through satellites, or the different electronic reconnaissance systems, and the international information networks. Moreover, there are modern systems that can immediately analyse the information and allow transferring it through high technologies. These factors make the information available to who wants it, and make all the system as an open book in front of the enemy/friend.
But there is something important, and it is what concerns to us here: the way of thinking when it comes to using the different types of weapons and equipment, enabling it to execute missions with unusual methods. This guarantees the full execution in the framework of deception and surprise.
This, in the first place, achieves hiding; it has a high level of secrecy. The armed forces keeps it as the most important plan for the next wars.
The proof to this is that when the Air Defence Forces was first established, it struck the Israeli Phantom fighter using modern technology means through the available missiles we had at that time. It used a quick action for an ambush to strike the electronic reconnaissance aircraft Stratocruiser, which had the most modern means of reconnaissance means. This prevented the enemy from reconnoitring on the forces west of the Canal.
We can finish by saying that the secret did not only lie in the weapons and equipment we had, but also in the ability to train soldiers on how to use weapons and equipment in a way that would help execute missions as efficiently as possible.