From the epicenter of the conflict in Libya, war might erupt. It will be an Egyptian-Turkish war in the beginning. War in Libya should have a different formula rather than the confrontational and traditional wars, victory will be for the army that will overpower and take its opponent out of the Libyan grounds.
On the military level, according to military analysts and experts, the continuous existence, intensive reconnaissance and rapid reaction in the event of a hostile act will be the decisive element of the conflict in Libya. Turkey realizes this, so it spreads its frigates and submarines in the region. The newest Turkish naval activities are distinguished by their ability to carry sophisticated radars and surface-to-air missiles. It can also carry Seahawk missiles, specialized in detecting and detonating submarines.
Naval warfare: What if the Egyptian navy takes part in the battle?
Egyptian navy will outweigh in quantity and power. It possesses two Mistral aircraft carriers and German-type submarines. It also owns Russian missile boats, which are able to launch supersonic Mosquito missiles. Furthermore, the Egyptian navy consists of 319 marine units, while Turkey has only 194. Egypt has two aircraft carriers, while Turkey does not have any. Both navies do not have any destroyers. However, Turkey overcomes Egypt by having 19 frigates while Egypt has only nine.
On the other hand, Turkey is more likely to exceed with its 12 submarines, where Egypt has four. It is known that Turkey is the largest country using German submarines in the world. However, Turkey has 11 marine mine detectors, while Egypt has 31 only. Egypt also has 50 patrol boats, but Turkey has only 34.
The warfare readiness of the two navies cannot be determined, since it is not subject to certain reliable figures. Nevertheless, by looking at the history of naval wars waged by the two armies, we find that Egypt did not fight any naval battles in its modern history, except for destroying the Israeli ship “Eilat” in a military action near the Egyptian shores, in addition to some defensive naval skirmishes that happened in the 1956 war. The two military operations were far from the eastern Mediterranean, which is highly likely to spark the conflict. On the other hand, Turkey participated in two wars against Cyprus and Greece in 1963 and 1974, where the maritime war was the biggest part of them. They took place in the same area where the Egyptian-Turkish skirmishes are expected to happen: the eastern Mediterranean.
No matter how many naval assets exist, a sudden airstrike could sink them down. Therefore, a strong air force is needed to shield them from above. If the Egyptian forces choose to go into the war, they must start with a sudden airstrike. The strike would target Turkish naval ships in the eastern Mediterranean together with Turkish naval bases that are overlooking them. Another target could be the air defense bases close to the region, controlling the operational coordination inside the eastern Mediterranean. The battle’s target depends on the aerial bombardment. If Egypt aims to just weaken the Turkish presence in the region, hitting the existing troops would suffice. Nevertheless, if it wants a sheer sovereignty over the eastern Mediterranean, hitting the previous three fronts would be essential.
The focus on the necessity of the sudden strike comes from the fact that the two countries are equal in terms of their air forces. Egypt has 1092 air assets, Turkey has 1067. Egypt also has 211 combat aircraft, 341 attack aircraft, along with 293 helicopters. As for Turkey, it has 207 combat aircraft and similar attack aircraft, but it has 492 helicopters. Egypt has 388 training aircraft, while Turkey has only 289.
This convergence between the two countries in air forces makes it difficult to involve into a direct and prolonged air war. In addition, the sudden airstrike may not work, if Turkey introduces the S-400 system as one of its defense lines in the eastern Mediterranean. However, if Turkey did not reply on the S-400, then the French Raval, the Russian MiG and the American F-16, which serve in the Egyptian air forces, will have a chance to raid the Turkish air and naval defenses. Moreover, the old Turkish defense systems are characterized by the enormity of their missiles and their fixed location, which is towards Greece, not Egypt.
The Turkish side realizes this shortcoming, thus it depends on the intense reconnaissance and early warning actions to nullify the element of surprise for any possible attack from any side.
A proxy war
The least important forces in that conflict are the ground forces. However, there is a possibility of their intervention. They will be on an intermediary ground. On December 11, 2019, a video, broadcasted by the Military Information Division of the Libyan Armed Forces led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, showed an Egyptian armored vehicle in the possession of the Libyan National Army. The Egyptian armored vehicle appeared for the first time in the exhibition of armament IDEX 2018. However, it is not an official weaponry of the Egyptian army yet, as it is still under testing conditions.
Supplying the Haftar Army with weaponry by the Egyptian forces could be a response to the Turkish escalation by signing a maritime agreement between Turkish President, Recep Erdogan and the head of the Libyan reconciliation government, Fayez al-Sarraj. Egypt wanted to deliver a message that it would not allow Turkey to be on the Libyan ground, politically nor militarily. If needed, the Egyptian army will provide Haftar with all means to prevent that. Therefore, the scenario of a direct confrontation between Egypt and Turkey could be strongly manifested in a proxy war on Libyan grounds.
There are 920 thousand soldiers serving in the Egyptian army, while the Turkish army has only 735 thousand. Egypt has 1,100 missile launchers, while Turkey has only 350. There are 2160 tanks serve in the Egyptian army, 5700 armored vehicles and 2100 portable cannons. Turkey excels in this respect, as it has 3,200 tanks and 9,500 armored vehicles, but it has only 1,200 mobile cannons. In addition, Turkey’s defense budget of 8 billion and 600 million dollars is considered twice the Egyptian budget of 4 billion and 400 million dollars. This gives Turkey three positions ahead of Egypt in the army overall rankings worldwide. The Turkish army is the ninth strongest army in the world, while the Egyptian army is ranked 12th.
Nevertheless, the possibility of a military clash between two fierce powers, such as Egypt and Turkey, is not limited to a direct military conflict. It could rather spills over into a wider regional conflict.
What would the region look like in the event of two forces rivaling each other, which they are supposed to have more in common? Taking into consideration that Turkey is a nuisance to many countries in the world, especially with Erdogan tightening his grip on the army and power recently. Many countries are trying to sideline Turkey and bring it back under the international umbrella. The question is, if the war erupts, will Egypt receive international support, since it will go into the war on behalf of the whole world!