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Egypt's military: Key facts

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egypt's military is among the largest in the Middle East
  • It receives billions in U.S. aid
  • It has produced all four presidents since 1952

(CNN) -- Egypt's military has produced all four presidents the country has had since a 1952 revolution led by Lt. Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser ended the monarchy, and the army remains a powerful force.

Key facts about Egypt's military:

-- It is one of the world's largest recipients of U.S. military aid. Washington agreed to a $13 billion, 10-year aid package to Egypt in 2007.

-- Because military service is mandatory, enlisted personnel generally reflect the country's demographics.

-- Mid-level officers are usually career professionals who aren't part of the political side of the military, and they enjoy widespread respect, though their earning power has lost status, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

-- Military conscripts are men between 18 and 30 years of age.

-- Mandatory service is 12 to 36 months, followed by a 9-year reserve obligation.

-- The supreme commander of the armed forces was ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

-- The military's supreme council is now running Egypt's affairs and includes leaders of the army, air force, navy and air defense command.

-- The head of the supreme council is Defense Minister and Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, 75, who has combat experience in three wars -- 1956, 1967 and 1973. His background is in the infantry, and he's also commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Before Mubarak stepped down, Tantawi was promoted to deputy prime minister.

-- Decision-making within the Ministry of Defense has rested almost solely with Tantawi, but during his tenure since 1991, "the tactical and operational readiness of the Egyptian Armed Forces has degraded," according to globalsecurity.org.

-- Beneath him is Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, chief of staff for armed forces. His service has been in the air defense, and his age is either 62 or 63; the Egyptian armed forces website only lists his date of birth as February 1948. He was in Washington, D.C., holding military talks when the protests first broke out.

-- U.S. aid made up for 25% of Egypt's defense spending in 2008, and the spending is for equipment largely of U.S. manufacture and design, subject to U.S. Congress approval, according to Jane's Intelligence. The equipment cannot affect the regional balance of power by surpassing that of Israeli forces, Jane's said.

-- Morale in the military and paramilitary security forces is good, partly because of a higher standard of living among the military than the population as a whole, according to Jane's Intelligence. The military monitors troops to keep Islamist influence in check.

-- Mubarak was commander of Egypt's air force during the 1973 war with Israel, which saw initial Arab victories before Israel's counterattack defeated the Arab armies. Mubarak became President Anwar Sadat's vice president in 1975 and became president when Sadat was assassinated in 1981.

-- Egyptian armed forces have newer, primarily U.S.-made equipment sitting beside older Soviet equipment purchased during the Nasser and Sadat eras.

-- The army considers itself to be the backbone of the regime and the guarantor of national stability, according to Jane's. Its 320,000 personnel make up almost three-quarters of the armed forces.

-- The air force comprises 30,000 personnel and the navy 20,500 more. Egypt's fear of an Israeli air attack is evident in the 70,000 personnel in the air defense command.

-- About 400,000 more Egyptians are members of the paramilitary security forces, used in the counterinsurgency campaigns of the late 1990s, according to Jane's. The security forces are accused of abuses and authoritarianism that Egyptians are now protesting, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

-- Egypt's military is among the largest in the Middle East. Older officers were trained in the Soviet Union, but younger ones studied in the West. Egypt regularly conducts joint military exercises with NATO.

-- Articles 180 to 183 of the Egyptian Constitution of 1971 say the armed forces "shall belong to the people" and are required "to defend the country, to safeguard its territory and security, and to protect the socialist gains of the people's struggle," according to globalsecurity.org.

-- The Constitution also says the defense of the homeland is a "sacred duty" and mandates compulsory conscription.

-- Military spending is 3.4% of gross domestic product, compared with 4.6% in the United States, according to 2005 estimates in the CIA World Factbook.