The State Department is seriously thinking of sending a team of American technicians to Egypt to repair its Soviet MIG-21 fighter planes. It appears that Egypt's air force is in a shambles and, since the country is feuding with the Soviet Union, the Egyptians have turned to the United States for help in getting the MIGs off the ground.
The incident shows you what a crazy, mixed-up world we're living in. Many countries that have been armed by the Soviets and the United States have switched allegiance after getting military aid. Former American allies are now in the Soviet camp, and countries once dependent on the Soviet Union for weapons are now staunch friends of the United States.
The only problem is that their military machinery doesn't work.
The answer to the problem might be that instead of the United States and Russia going for SALT talks, we might work out an exchange program where our technicians could be trained to repair Soviet equipment, and their technicians could come to this country and learn how to fix American hardware.
Also, a hot line could be set up between the two countries so that when an American mechanic get stuck he could call his Soviet counterpart and ask him what to do.
It would work like this:
Suppose the American technician is thrown by a MIG-21 engine problem. He would dial a toll-free number in Moscow and ask for the MIG engine expert.
"I'm having trouble with the oil filter on the left pod," the American would say. "The threads don't seem to screw into the manifold."
"Is simple, Comrade. You have oil filter upside down. Try it the other way."
"Yeah, it does work the other way. Thanks a lot."
"While I have you on the phone, Comrade, the rocket release on the F-5 planes you sold to Angola keeps getting stuck."
"What kind of grease are you using?"
"The GS-15 that came with the plane."
"Oh, for heaven's sake. That grease has been replaced with a B-112. It's in the new manual."
"We don't have the new manual, Comrade. Could you send us one?"
"Yeah, if you tell me how to replace the MIG's high-pressure gauge in the heat-seeking missile component."
"That, as you Americans say, is a bitch. You have to take out entire front panel and readjust the rheostat, which is next to the altimeter light just below automatic pilot computer. But don't break the seal on the computer because it will send the MIG straight into the ground."
"That's good to know. Are you people okay on spare parts for the Grumman fighters we sold to Ethiopia?"
"Yes. Comrade, but we're short of spare fuselages for the C-130's you left in Vietnam."
"I'll see that you get them if you send us new radar parts for the anti-tank guns Israel captured in the Yom Kippur war."
"No problem. Comrade. It's a pleasure doing business with you."
"Don't mention it. What are enemies for?"