Egyptian Rapid Deployment Forces: Independence Essential Speed Optional

To understand the Rapid Deployment Forces one first has to look at Egypt’s contemporary military history and its current threat perceptions. Both of these have mandated a certain organisational set up that focuses on internal and local threats. Israel the traditional rival to the East, Libya the pariah to the West, and an unpredictable Sudan to the South is what the Egyptian Armed Forces expected and planned for.
Military Regions: Southern, Pink. Western, Light Blue. Central, Yellow. Northern, Red. 2nd Army, Dark Blue. 3rd Army, whatever the hell that colour is covering Southern Sinai
Conventional Egyptian military doctrine has organisationally separated formations into several areas of responsibility, or Military Regions. Traditionally the best equipped, trained, and supplied units were attached to the Northern, Central, 2nd Army, and 3rd Army. The reason for this is simple, they were the units tasked with confronting Israel and protecting Egypt’s depth if war broke out. In contrast the Western and Southern Military Regions were operating legacy systems nearing the end of their life, but both were still capable of putting the comparatively incompetent and even more poorly equipped neighbours on their arse regardless.
Cans full of Seamen
For some the creation of the Rapid Deployment Forces and several significant purchases – Mistral LHDs – signaled a move towards power projection on a regional level and a move away from traditional thinking. Which on the surface is somewhat accurate. However, how the RDF fits into this is widely misunderstood. The name of Egypt’s newest division and its description as being air deployable made some think it would be akin to the US 82nd Airborne in that it could be mobilised and on scene in hours rather than weeks or days. But upon closer inspection the reality is that the RDF aren’t all that rapid. This isn’t a knock on them, they were never meant to be and they never could be. They are by all means still a conventional Egyptian Army division in that they have plenty of armour, mechanised infantry, mechanised Air Defence battalions, Special Operations Forces, and Special Forces.
I hate looking up pictures for this Army. Like guys, a decent camera would do wonders.

Egypt simply does not have the strategic lift capability to support such a large and heavy force for them to be completely air deployable, in fact no one does. The comparisons with US Airborne – or any other unit ready to deploy and drop on several hours notice – either seriously misunderstood the RDF or the Airborne. Then what is different about the RDF?

The most important aspect about them is their independence. The RDF are not attached to any Army or Military Region. They provide a flexibility that the Armed Forces did not have because of a rigid Military Region system that mandated formations be permanently stationed under their command unless there were extraordinary circumstances – such as the deployment to Kuwait in 1991 which exposed expeditionary weaknesses – that required them taken out, leaving them short. Egypt is currently attempting to build up a credible expeditionary capability in which the RDF could be at the forefront but it is also hedging its bets against an internal collapse which could be similar to Syria.

Syria too employs the Military Region system, in fact both Armed Forces continue to share many similarities – although many Egyptians would welcome that, it’s not a compliment – including the creation of independent divisions. The Syrian Arab Army’s 5th Corps is a response to the rigidity and collapse of their own Regions, they are spread thinly as it is and have suffered serious attrition. Thus for a time they were – and to some extent still are – dependent on local and foreign militias for offensives and could not redeploy forces from one area to another.


The Egyptian Armed Forces has created an indpenedant division which is expected to undertake combined arms operations alone if other units are embattled or indisposed on a domestic front. To that end they have tried some new things. The first being an experiment of attaching rotary aircraft – Apache, Chinook, Mil Mi – for tactical lift, air assault, and attack roles, the Army has never had any aviation assets and these are still operated by the Air Force but perhaps – I personally find it very unlikely – an Army Air Corps could be on the horizon. The RDF has also attempted to introduce some form of logistical coherence in terms of equipment and networking, relying solely on Western arms. Making combat service support a relatively easier task than for other divisions which have a dizzying mix of Western and Eastern equipment.

Much like SOF they train their own troops to a higher standard – read my piece on Thunderbolt training it is very similar – than the average line but they suffer from the traditional disadvantages of a thoughrouly flawed conscription system added to a toxic mix of a weak NCO spine and an over inflated Officer Corps which hordes power and knowledge.

The RDF could be something great, there are plenty of good ideas in the Egyptian Armed Forces. Some plan out and others wither due to mismanagement or a lack of resources. The RDF will have to prove it belongs and eventually whether their capability can meet political expectations.

Disclaimer time. I am neither part of the Egyptian state or Armed Forces. Everything I write about is from open sources. I am neither privy to inside information or have any heavyweight sources. Take everything I write with a ton of salt as I could be wrong as I may not be in possession of the full facts. I will however stand by my opinions unless they can be proven to be wrong.

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