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Air Defence Academy is the newest military institution in the Middle East

Hanan Khairy interviewed The Commander-in-Chief of Air Defence, Lieutenant-General Abdel-Moneim Ibrahim Bayoumi Al-Terras, heads the Air Defence Academy, the newest military institution in the Middle East. He says Air Defence troops are operating in conformity with specific plans and programmes and have clear targets, and they are in tune with everything that is going on in terms of events and regional developments.

In an interview on the 45th anniversary of the Air Defence Forces, the Commander-in-Chief said that 30 June 1970 was the real beginning of Egypt’s restoration of  territory and dignity. This was achieved through the anti-aircraft missile defence wall which prevented enemy aircrafts from approaching the front. Air Defence troops succeeded in depriving Israel of reconnoitring Egyptian troops west of the canal during the ceasefire, and during the first three days of the October War 1973 the enemy lost more than third of its aircrafts and pilots.

Lieut-General Abdel-Moneim Al-Terras, Air Defence troops celebrate Air Defence Day on 30 June every year. Can you tell us why this date was chosen?

The Air Defence Force was established by Republican Decree no. 199, issued on 1 February 1968, to represent the fourth force of our brave armed forces.

An anti-aircraft missile defence wall was established under the pressure of constant air attacks by the enemy using the latest Phantoms and Skyhooks aircrafts, which were highly equipped compared with the air defence means available at that time. Through good training in real battle circumstances during the War of Attrition, the Air Defence troops were able to shoot down many of these aircrafts during the first weeks of July 1970, and took several Israeli pilots prisoners. It was the first time a Phantom aircrafts had been shot down, and it was called ‘the week of shooting down the Phantom’. Victories by the Air Defence personnel continued, and 30 June 1970 is considered the real beginning of the restoration of sovereignty. From then on, the defence wall prevented the approach of enemy aircrafts, and so Air Defence Forces chose that day as their anniversary.

During the Air Defence celebrations we repeatedly heard the term ‘Missile Wall’. Will you please explain it, and say how this wall was created?

The missile wall was a combination of various weaponry—including missiles and anti-aircraft artillery—in consecutive formations inside fortified sites and structured trenches capable of providing the main requirements for ground defence of vital targets, air bases and airports west of the canal, and capable of extending target areas to a distance of not less than 15 kilometres east of the canal. These sites were set up and fortified pending the entry of anti-aircraft missiles. The defence wall was established under very difficult circumstances when the conflict was between Israel’s long arm, represented by its air force, and the Egyptian Armed Forces personnel, in co-operation with civilian construction companies, to provide air defence using anti-aircraft artillery. Most of the time the enemy succeeded in hitting and sometimes destroying its targets. Air Defence personnel studied, planned, worked continuously and accomplished their mission.

It was agreed that the missile wall would be established by means of one of two options. The first was to dispatch all the missile wall divisions at once and occupy advanced field sites without fortifications, and to accept expected losses until the fortifications were completed. The second option was to dispatch missile wall brigades to the canal area in batches so that the fortifications for each area could be completed and then occupied under protection from the rear, and so on. That was what actually happened, and the sites in the first area were established east of Cairo and occupied without any reaction from the enemy.

It was planned to occupy three new areas extending from half the distance between the west side of the canal and Cairo. These operations were completed successfully with full co-ordination and accuracy, and on time, like an integral symphony playing a great melody. This revealed the championship and sacrifice of the Air Defence personnel, and was the embodiment of giving, patience, perseverance and challenge in these men. As a result, the enemy’s air defence did not dare to come near the Suez Canal, and this paved the way for the war of liberation. There was full freedom to do this, and no intervention from the enemy’s air defence.

There is no end to the talk about the October War. Will you please tell us how the Egyptian Air Defence destroyed Israel’s legendary long arm during the October War in 1973?

Talk about the October War certainly does not end. If we seek to discuss all the events, it would take several books to cover everything. We will just speak briefly to highlight the role of the Air Defence Forces. First, we need to learn about the stance of the Israeli air force, their high combat capabilities and their latest armaments. Planning for organising and arming the Israeli air forces started early. Israel provided its troops with the latest air weapons available by purchasing Mirage aircrafts from France and signing contracts with the United States to buy Phantom and Skyhook aircraft. Before 1973, Israel had 600 aircrafts, of various types. The Israeli air forces had the time and potential to prepare ahead in the wake of the 1956 war and their fake victory in 1967, and to amass a large number of the latest aircrafts during the War of Attrition. Our Air Defence Forces had to confront these aircrafts. Air Defence personnel put up an epic resistance, activating the missile wall under constant air raids by the enemy during April, May, June, July and August 1970, and anti-aircraft missile brigades managed to shoot down and destroy more than 12 Phantom, Skyhook and Mirage aircraft. This forced Israel to accept the Roger’s ceasefire initiative on the morning of 8 August 1970, and Air Defence personnel started to prepare for the war of liberation.

A number of Sam-3 Pechora missiles arrived and joined the Air Defence systems at the end of 1970. During the ceasefire, Air Defence Forces succeeded in preventing the enemy from reconnoitring our troops west of the canal by shooting down an electronic reconnaissance aircraft (Stratocruiser) on the morning of September 17, 1971 … and adding upgraded missile systems (Sam-2, Sam-6) to reactivate the missile wall in preparation for the liberation war. The Air Defence mission was very difficult because the operations scene was not only on the Suez Canal front, but also all over Egypt, including vital political and economic targets, air bases, airports, navy bases and strategic harbours. On the first day of the fighting on 6 October 1973, when Egyptian troops were crossing until the last light, the Israeli army attacked using a number of aircrafts for immediate reaction followed by attacks with a small number of aircrafts which flew overnight on October 6/7. They were confronted by anti-aircraft missiles and artillery units which succeeded in shooting down more than 25 aircrafts and hitting a number of others. A number of pilots were taken prisoners. In light of these events, the Israeli Air Force Commander ordered pilots not to approach within at least 15 kilometres of the Suez Canal. On the morning of 7 October 1973, the enemy launched air raids on air bases, airports and radar brigades, but these failed and led to further losses of aircrafts and pilots. During the first three days of the war, the Israeli Air Forces lost more than third of its aircrafts and pilots, their pride and joy. It was the biggest epic of the October War for the Air Defence Forces, that on the fourth day of the fighting, Moshe Dayan defined the problems facing the Israeli forces by announcing that there was another problem facing their Air Forces, and this was their inability to penetrate the Egyptian missile network. He said in a TV interview on 14 October 1973 that the Israeli Air Force was undergoing heavy battles in terms of days and blood.

Egypt has been through some stormy events that have influenced Egyptians of all denominations, and the Armed Forces have played a model role by adopting a neutral stance, supporting the people and protecting constitutional legitimacy. Can you please define the role of the Air Defence during the 25 January and 30 June revolutions?

Air Defence is one of the main branches of the Armed Forces. It has administrative and combat units deployed all over the country and the command centres operate round the clock. Its work means that combat teams are constantly in service in peace and war. It is therefore responsible for following ongoing events night and day, and it plays an important role in following up incidents and receiving notifications about events. It has helped arrest criminals who broke out of prison along with infiltrators and saboteurs.

Air Defence Forces also helped secure electoral processes after 25 January 2011. They also protect vital targets and help secure State facilities and utilities in conformity with the authorities. Air Defence is deployed along Egypt’s borders, and plays a role in reporting any cases of infringement of Egypt’s air, maritime and land borders within an integral system with border guard troops.

Air Defence troops also secure combat operations by the Air Force to fight terror in Sinai.

In light of threats facing the peace process in the region, as well as the political instability caused by the Arab revolutions and the role played by the Armed Forces in securing the domestic front, how are the Air Defence Forces affected?

To begin with I would like to clarify an important point. As military men, we operate according to specific plans and programmes and clear targets. However, at the same time, we are concerned with everything that happens around us, in terms of events and the latest developments in the area. The threats now facing peace and the concerns they raise about the future in general are not far from our minds. However, the Armed Forces have always had their targets, programmes and methods for maintaining their capabilities in peace and war. When we speak about the combat readiness of the Air Defence Forces, we are speaking about a constant readiness target for these troops and they are at full capacity night and day, in peace and war, and under any circumstances, for carrying out their missions successfully. This constant readiness for combat is achieved due to a number of conditions placing troops in a high and accurate state of readiness … and their ability to carry out their missions at the right time.

Maintaining constant combat readiness is achieved through obtaining information about the air enemy at all times, the accurate organisation of transport and the readiness of the main and makeshift command centres to manage combat operations and maintain the technical efficiency of arms and equipment. All these elements are being carried out within the framework of full military discipline and high morale. The participation of the Air Defence elements in assisting the rest of the bodies in the Armed Forces General Command in securing the domestic front and the democratic change in the State was one of the secondary missions carried out by the troops without affecting their main mission, namely securing and protecting the skies of Egypt on all strategic sites.

The Armed-Forces are highly involved in military cooperation with several Arab and foreign states, and this is one of the main pillars of development. How is that done in the Air Defence Forces?

Air Defence Forces are keen on keeping pace with the latest technologies in the military field by diversifying sources of weapons and developing weapons and equipment, making use of the various fields of military cooperation on scientific bases in the Armed forces. We are keen on developing and upgrading our weapons and equipment, and we try to obtain the best weapons in the international armory in order to reach the aspired target. Within this framework, military co-operation is carried out in two ways. First, co-operation in developing and upgrading weapons and equipment to develop the fighting potential of troops, as well as developing and upgrading the Air Defence system in conformity with the Egyptian combat faith. Maintenance of available equipment is also carried out according to a specific and ongoing plan. The second track is carrying out joint drills with friendly Arab states to gain experience and become acquainted with the latest methods of planning and managing operations in these states. Air Defence Forces are always keen on increasing aspects of cooperation in all fields (training, development and upgrading). Moving these tracks is carried out according to set plans which ensure constant development of the Air Defence Forces at the level of equipment and its use.

Air Defence is an integral system that covers several elements. Can you please tell us about the various parts, features and requirements of this system?

The Air Defence system comprises several elements, namely reconnaissance, warning and positive features that enable commanders to take measures that deprive the enemy of carrying out its missions, or destroying the enemy using air defence units stationed across the country on permanent and mobile sites, based on the nature of the vital targets and locations requiring air defence.

Implementing air defence missions requires the co-ordination of various parts that form an integral system comprising radar devices to monitor and give warning, air control, and various anti-aircraft missiles, artillery, shoulder-fired missiles, fighters and electronic warfare components.

The Air Defence system is controlled by an integral system of command and control through its centres at the various levels, in close cooperation with the Air Force and electronic warfare, to put constant pressure on the enemy, preventing it from carrying out its missions and inflicting it with the maximum possible losses. The Air Defence system is managed by means of a balance between all the elements in the system and their capability to confront the enemy in the air.

In light of the enormous development in armament technology around the world, how are Air Defence Academy students being prepared to keep pace with developments?

The Air Defence Academy is the newest military institute in the Middle East. Its role is not confined only to graduating Egyptian air defence officers, but it also rehabilitates cadets from Arab and African allies.

Given the impact of the Air Defence Academy on the Air Defence Forces, which deal with high technology and expensive weapons and equipment, the Academy is being developed along two lines. First, by developing training through the constant revision of curricula to cope with the requirements and needs of Air Defence units and the accumulative experience from previous years. Teaching staff  are selected from among officers and civilian professors who show exceptional expertise in their various fields.

The second track is providing the Academy with the latest practical training. The Academy has classrooms with various types of Air Defence equipment, including simulators for carrying out engagements with air targets. Classrooms have closed circuit TV and the newest technology. The engineering labs have been upgraded, and training camps are organised for senior rank students to practice shooting air defence weapons at the Air Defence Shooting Centre.

The Air Defence Forces run a shooting range equipped with Air Defence weapons. How is this used to train combat personnel and to test weapons and equipment?

It is well known that live shooting is the highest level of combat training, since it provides positive results in terms of confidence in using weapons. It is thought of as crowning the efforts exerted during the year-long training, and is a monitor of sound planning and accomplished training.

In light of the tangible development in the Egyptian Air Defence system, the shooting range has been upgraded to a state-of-the-art  facility equipped with the latest largest shooting systems and devices for evaluating and registering the results to assess the points of strength and weakness as regards personnel and equipment. This is done with the aim of analysing and realising the best combat and training results, creating a favourable atmosphere for carrying out the actual shooting at various targets with different specifications for all systems operated by the Air Defence Forces and providing necessary funding for the equipment.

The great potential of the shooting range enables it to be a modern centre on the regional level. There are no other centres like this in the Middle East.

The enormous development in obtaining information and the diversity of sources of such information have led to lack of secrecy in armament systems in most parts of the world. What should be done in your opinion to protect the secrecy of the armament systems of the Air Defence Forces?

It is to be expected that these days there are no limits to obtaining information, whether through satellites, the various electronic monitoring systems or the Internet. There are now systems for immediate analysis of information and the means to transfer them. All this has made information available to anyone who wants it, and all systems have become an open book for both the friend and the enemy.

However, there is something important that helps us in this respect, namely, the ideology of using various weapons and equipment that can carry out missions through unconventional means and ensure use of deception and surprise. The Armed Forces keep this as one of the most important plans for future conflicts.

When the Air Defence Forces were first established, Israeli Phantom aircraft were destroyed using a missile system with the latest technology available at that time, plus the secret movement of a missile brigade to ambush and shoot down the electronic reconnaissance Stratocruiser aircraft equipped with the latest electronic reconnaissance methods, and prevent the enemy from reconnoitring west of the canal. The combat method we used, which extended missile reach east of the canal, was uncommon for the enemy. We concluded from all this that the secret was not in our weapons and equipment, but rather in our ability to develop methods for using them in order to carry out our missions to full effect.

The development of a nation can be measured by its interest in scientific research. How can science be used to develop Air Defence weapons and equipment?

First, I have to stress that we are interested in all fields of scientific research that can be used in developing our weapons and equipment. The Air Defence Forces have a technical research and development centre which is responsible for upgrading, developing and making any required modifications to equipment by making use of the expertise of engineering officers, technicians and users of the equipment. The centre approves research studies and implements them practically by carrying out laboratory and field tests to verify their actual field fitness by Air Defence fighters. The centre develops equipment through integral stages with the aim of making use of modern scientific technology to upgrade the level of performance of Air Defence equipment. There is also close co-operation with the Armed Forces’ various technical research centres to study problems related to using weapons and equipment and to provide the best solutions. There are many ways of supporting scientific research conducted by Air Defence officers, including holding symposiums and lectures by the Air Defence Academy together with civilian professors from Egyptian universities. The Military Research Authority, the Nasser Higher Military Academy and the Military Technical College also organise symposiums to boost scientific research, Air Defence officers are dispatched abroad to exchange science and knowledge with other nations and obtain advanced scientific degrees (Masters and Ph.D.) to keep pace with the latest developments in science.

In light of the tough and numerous missions of the Air Defence units and the high potential required from commanders to lead and control, how are commanders selected at the various levels in the Air Defence Forces?

Selection of commanders comes within the general framework defined by the Armed Forces General Command and is based on certain specifications and qualifications for a commander at any level. Commanders at all levels are chosen based on the candidate’s specialisation and technical and training level. This starts with his graduation from the Air Defence Academy and continues throughout his service, with annual efficiency reports, until he is nominated for a command job. These reports are constantly developed to reflect the level of officers in all aspects of evaluation. The selection is also made according to the officer’s scientific qualifications, which is the main criteria for assuming leading posts in the Air Defence Forces. This is essential in terms of the officer’s ability to understand all the requirements of leadership.

The commander’s communication with his subordinates is one of the reasons for success in command and control and follow up of missions. How is this done in the Air Defence Forces?

The General Command of the Armed Forces always shows concern for its personnel and holds regular meetings for commanders at all levels. All Air Defence commanders hold periodical meetings, from troop commanders to faction commander. The rate and timing of meetings differ from one level to another, as meetings between faction and the company commanders are held on a daily basis, while division commander meetings are held weekly and the brigade commanders meet twice a month. Meetings of commanders and their subordinates take place on national and religious occasions and after carrying out main training commitments.

As for meetings of officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers, they take place constantly and on various occasions. Some are held monthly with the troop command and with commanders and officers at all levels to expound aspects of the military political stance and to allow officers to be acquainted with important issues through lectures.

Meetings of commanders of formations include the largest possible number of officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers so they can be acquainted with any problems that arise and to take decisions to solve them. I am keen for units and subordinate units up to the level of air control to follow up the holding of meetings between officers and soldiers and learn about their work difficulties and listen to their personal problems.

I consider the happiest moments in my career are the ones I spend with the officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers, whether on command or combat sites, as they are the actual monitor for the performance of these troops.

Abdel-Moneim Ibrahim Bayoumi Al-Terras
Abdel-Moneim Ibrahim Bayoumi Al-Terras

Biography:

Abdel-Moneim Ibrahim Bayoumi al-Terras

Commander of the Egyptian Air Defence Command

 

Personal Information:

Rank: Lieutenant General

Name: Abdel-Moneim Ibrahim Bayoumi al-Terras

Unit: Air Defence Battalion

Date of Birth: 10 November, 1952

Date of Joining Academy: 3 October, 1970

Date of Graduation: 16 September, 1972 (Class of 62 Army)

Date of Promotion to Lt. Gen.: 11 April, 2013

Social Status: Married; one son, two daughters

 

Military Education:

Obtained several specialised studies in the air defense field:

Brigades fire leader course (anti-aircraft missiles)

Main Staff Course (39) in 1990

Fellowship of the Higher War College. Nasser’s Military Sciences Academy (21) in 1998

 

Command posts held:

Commander, anti-aircraft missile division

Commander, air defence missile brigade

Commander, air defence brigade

Director, Air Defence Academy

Commander, Air Defence Command, as of 13 August, 2012

 

Wars:

October War, 1973

 

Medals and Decorations:

Longevity and Exemplary Medal

Distinguished Service Decoration

Training Medal of First Degree

Military Duty Medal of Second Degree

Sinai Liberation Medal

October Fighters Medal, 1973

The 20th Anniversary of the Revolution Medal

Air Defence’s Day Medal

October War Victory Silver Jubilee Medal

25 January 2011 Medal

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