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September 24, 2010: Egypt's "Badr 2010" exercises concluded earlier this year. The "Badr" exercises are the Egyptian Army's annual drills that have been held for decades. They date back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War and are named after the Egyptians' 1973 amphibious assault across the Suez Canal (Operation Badr). The exercises serve partly to test out new weapons and equipment being constantly acquired from the West, mainly the US, and produced by their own domestic arms industry.   Supposedly, the drills are also a chance for the Egyptians to develop new tactics, review old ones, and orient themselves to the changing military demands of the 21st century. In theory. 

The truth is that the annual exercises have hardly changed their focus or curriculum in several decades. The exercises usually consist of massive combined arms war games intended to simulate a conventional war against Israel. This year's set up was a crossing of the Suez Canal similar to their attack in 1973. Putting aside the fact that the country has a peace treaty with Israel, it does not seem to have dawned on the Egyptians that, even in the event of war, the Israelis might not be completely fooled the second time around. 

Apparently, very little training is conducted to prepare the participants for counter-insurgency operations or anti-terrorism/anti-trafficking actions, despite the large numbers of special forces and paratroopers that are always used in the drills. The order of battle deployed during the war game also reveals outdated organizational structures and Cold War-era unit orientation. 

Thus the Egyptian Army is still largely organized on the old Soviet model, as well as along the lines the Egyptians structured their forces when a war with Israel was a real possibility. The Egyptians retain in their forces six ATGW (Anti-Tank Guided Weapons) Brigades which, coupled with 2 independent infantry brigades, form an entire infantry corps of the Army. This is very much based on Soviet doctrine, which placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on armored and anti-armor warfare. It's also a holdover from the 1973 war when the Egyptians, knowing they couldn't take the Israelis in a conventional tank battle, instead issued anti-tank missiles and RPG-7s to their infantrymen to the point of saturation. 

The Egyptians also remain wedded to the Soviet idea of raising and deploying massive numbers of elite special operations forces. The idea is that, since elite forces are so effective, the military should raise as many of them as possible. During the Cold War, the USSR's Airborne forces alone were larger than the entire size of some nation's militaries and large enough to warrant being made a separate branch of the Soviet Armed Forces. The Egyptians are of the same mindset since their ground forces incorporate no fewer than eight Special Forces Regiments/Groups. 

As the Badr 2010 drills have ended, the Egyptians prove once again that they are applying outdated tactics and organization to use new weapons to practice for a war that is unlikely to occur. 

 

 


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