Estimates of the Egyptian military's share of the country's economy range from 5% to 40% and its hands reach into many industries, including mining, real estate, farming and the production of household appliances.
Egypt's military has long hoarded and sought to protect an empire of businesses - from banking to pasta factories - and that may be a reason it feels threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt's military establishment will fight the Muslim Brotherhood "with ferocity and even extreme violence, if necessary," says Nimrod Raphaeli, a senior researcher for the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington. "It cannot afford to lose" if it's economic empire and dominant political role is to survive, Raphaeli said.
Dozens of people were killed Friday, including 10 police officers, in fighting across the country after hundreds were killed earlier in the week.
Residents furious with the Brotherhood threw rocks and bottles at demonstrators and the two sides fired on one another, sparking running street battles, according to the Associated Press. Above it all, military helicopters circled.
The military has reason to eye the Brotherhood carefully, Raphaeli says, because it is "a well-knit organization singularly capable of challenging the army's dominance in many spheres of political, economic and bureaucratic life in Egypt," he said.
Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi only moved to expel former president Mohamed Morsi from office when it became clear that Morsi and his Brotherhood followers had lost control of the country and were heading for a violent confrontation with their political opponents, said Eric Trager, an Egypt expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Until that moment, however, the generals hesitated because, despite promises to bring the Army to heel, the Brotherhood did not immediately threaten the military's economic interests.
"Morsi made a somewhat pragmatic decision to accept the military's economic empire," Trager says.
Estimates of the 1 million-member Egyptian military's share of the country's economy range from 5% to 40% and its hands reach into many industries, including mining, real estate, farming and the production of household appliances, according to a list of armed forces ventures compiled by the Egyptian National Information Agency and published by MEMRI.
One military-owned web site extols the quality of its macaroni, according to MEMRI's research. And the army enters into partnerships with foreign investors, on maritime and air transport, oil and gas and industrial-scale environmental projects such as wastewater treatment and energy generation.
"The military jealously protects these assets" and has long opposed modern economic policies such as privatization that threaten their position in the economy, Raphaeli says. And that is also hurting Egypt's hopes for a normal economy.
In 2008, then-U.S. Ambassador to Cairo Margaret Scobey wrote that the Egyptian military "stifles free market reform by increasing direct government involvement in the markets," and that minister of defense could suspend any trade agreement for "security reasons," according to documents released by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks.
Egyptian law allows the military to seize land anywhere for national security purposes, but it often does so for commercial reasons, MEMRI says. The military owns choice lands in Sharm el-Sheikh resort areas at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula and many other resorts, military clubs, super markets and hospitals that cater to the country's relatively well-paid military officers.
Egypt's military had repressed the Brotherhood for decades and fought a war against an Islamic extremist insurgency in the 1980s after members of a Brotherhood offshoot assassinated former president Anwar Sadat.
However, Egypt's military did not initially oppose the Brotherhood coming to power after mass demonstrations forced former strongman Hosni Mubarak from power.
The military allowed the movement to win elections, and it hesitated to move against the Brotherhood for several months this year even as millions of Morsi opponents campaigned for him to step down.
Trager said the army did so because Brotherhood leaders, who once talked of bringing the military's budget under civilian control, decided to leave the military's economic holdings alone and even talked earlier this year of expanding the military's commercial enterprises to retain its support.
In the end, the military joined the coalition of parties that turned on the Brotherhood, which Trager says was somewhat of a surprise.
Egypt's U.S.-trained secular military leaders now say members of the Brotherhood don't accept Egypt's secularist national character and are trying to implement a global Islamist agenda, Trager said.
They're describing their fight with the Brotherhood as a fight against terrorists who would destabilize Egypt.
"But the way they're dealing with that isn't promoting stability either," Trager said.