Courting Sadat: The Heath Government and Britain’s Arms Sales to Egypt, 1970-1973

Geraint Hughes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On 18 July 1972 the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat expelled the Soviet military contingent from his country, signalling his intention to re-align Egypt with the Western powers. In response, the British government under its Prime Minister, Edward Heath, sought to encourage Sadat’s defection from the Soviet orbit by supporting arms transfers to Egypt. The Heath government’s approach was influenced both by strategic as well as commercial factors, but despite its intentions limited progress was made in promoting defence sales, due mainly to the UK’s concerns about the resumption of Arab-Israeli hostilities, the potential impact of arms transfers on Anglo-American relations, and concerns within the British armed forces and intelligence services that the Soviet bloc could exploit any Egyptian security breaches. The Egyptian armed forces were also primarily interested in weapons systems (notably the Jaguar ground attack jet) which Britain was unwilling to sell. There were therefore only a few defence sales agreements concluded between the UK and Egypt before the former imposed an arms embargo following the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War on 6 October 1973.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020


  • arms sales
  • British defence policy
  • British foreign policy
  • Cold War history
  • Middle Eastern history


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