US, Egyptian, and Sudanese troops are to stage joint war games next month, effectively warning Libya to reconsider any aggressive intentions it might have towards the Sudan.
The maneuvers, code-named "Bright Star," may involve US marines, B-52 bombers , and paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Pentagon spokesman Henry Catto declined Oct. 13 to reveal which units would take part, saying that the "details are being ironed out." He conceded that any of those forces assigned to the Rapid Development Force could participate.
Mr. Catto said Oman may join the exercises, which are
Due to begin Nov. 9 and last for a month. He did not rule out the possibility that Somalia also may contribute forces to "Bright Star."
The Pentagon spokesman insisted that the exercise was not being "enhanced" as a result of President Sadat's murder. "This has been planned for a long time, well before the unhappy events of last week. If it makes a statement, so be it."
Observing that the border region between Libya, Egypt, and the Sudan is "clearly an area of tension and of great interest to the US," he affirmed that "Bright Star" will be bigger than last year's operation of the same name, which lasted 10 days.
The announcement of the exercise comes two days after Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiry said he expected a Soviet-backed Libyan invasion of the Sudan from Chad in the near future. He accussed Libya of bombing Sudanese villages near the Chad border and of engaging in subversive activities in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
According to sources, "Bright Star" may involve US Marine landings in Somalia and on Masira Island off the Omani coast. In addition, Strategic Air Command B- 52s may be deployed from Grand Forks and Minot Air Force bases in North Dakota to hit desert bombing ranges in Egypt. They would fly out and back nonstop, refueling in midair, as a demonstration of the global reach of US air power.
"There are a lot of things that might happen," said Catto guardedly, explaining that "Bright Star" is designed to test US ability "to move things rapidly to where they're needed."
Catto added that the Pentagon was "not as of now" planning to step up arms shipments to either Egypt or the Sudan in the wake of Sadat's death. "We're able to accelerate deliveries if we decide we should," he said.
Leaving Cairo last week, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. declared he would seek accelerated arms deliveries to the Sudan. Indeed, Secretary Haig has confirmed that the US is already "discussing the early delivery of some security related equipment." President Nimeiry is eager to acquire anti-aircraft radar units and missiles to defend Khartoum as well as antitank weapons and F-5 fighter planes.
The Reagan administration is seeking $100 million from Congress for arms for the Sudan in fiscal year 1982. But in light of his needs, Nimeiry has complained that it is an insufficient sum.