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.