Hawk at entrance to the hypostyle hall
of the Temple of Edfu(Idfu)
EGYPT IS LOCATED in a region characterized by tension and
conflict. Since Egypt's war with Israel in 1973, however, the
threat of military confrontation with neighboring countries has
steadily subsided. As of 1990, the government was in the process of
reducing the size of its armed forces relative to the size of the
population. At the same time, the armed forces were modernizing
their command structure and updating their arms and equipment. With
448,000 troops, Egypt in 1990 remained one of the major military
powers in the Middle East.
The four services--the army, navy, air force, and Air Defense
Force--included conscripts and some volunteers. The average
conscript served three years in the military, although people who
had completed higher education served shorter terms. The military
also had a liberal exemption policy.
Since the Free Officers' coup in 1952, career military officers
have headed Egypt's government, and senior officers have played an
influential role in the nation's affairs. The military's
involvement in government has diminished since the 1970s, although
ranking members of the officer corps have continued to fill the
positions of minister of defense (who served concurrently as
commander in chief of the armed forces) and minister of interior.
Egypt's military leaders enjoyed a reputation for competence
and professionalism; many of these leaders had advanced training at
foreign military institutes and combat experience as junior
officers during the October 1973 War.
As of 1990, much of the military was still equipped with arms
provided by the Soviet Union between the late 1950s and mid-1970s.
In 1979 the United States began supplying Egypt with arms. With the
exception of Israel, Egypt was the largest recipient of United
States military aid during the 1980s. Its impressive stock of
weaponry from all sources nevertheless did not match that of Israel
in terms of modern armor and combat aircraft.
Egypt has made substantial progress in expanding its own arms
industry, but this progress depended on assistance from several
Western countries. During the 1980s, the army began to play an
important role in Egypt's development efforts; it built roads,
irrigation and communications systems, and housing. It also
produced food and industrial products. These activities
demonstrated that the military could be an asset to the country
even during periods of peace.
The country faced no threat of invasion as of early 1990, but
extreme Islamic groups fanned internal tensions. The police and the
government's intelligence service were fairly successful in
controlling Muslim extremists' activities, which included arson and
attempts to assassinate government officials.
During the 1980s, elements of the military were involved in
activities aimed at destabilizing the government. Religious
conspirators in the army, seeking to overthrow the government,
assassinated President Anwar as Sadat in 1981. But overall, the
armed forces remained loyal to the regime and supported the
peaceful transition of power from Sadat to the vice president and
former air force commander Husni Mubarak. Troops again upheld
internal order in 1986 by quashing riots of conscripts from the
Central Security Forces, a paramilitary police body, protesting
against harsh treatment.
Data as of December 1990