On December 12, 2016, the Egyptian Navy officially received its first Type 209/1400, Dolphin-class submarine from the German submarine specialist ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS). The ceremony was attended by Markus Grübel, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Defense; Vice Admiral Rainer Brinkmann, Deputy Chief of Staff of the German Navy; Kurt-Christoph von Knobelsdorff, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Employment, Transport, and Technology of the State of Schleswig-Holstein; the commander of the Egyptian Navy, Admiral Osama Mounir Rabie and high-ranking representatives from Egypt.
During the ceremony, Admiral Rabie conveyed greetings from President and Supreme Commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Minister of Defense and Commander General of the Egyptian Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Sedki Sobhi to the German Navy, the ThyssenKrupp Corporation, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He thanked them for their support of Egypt’s submarine program.
In his speech at the handover ceremony, Rabie said the Egyptian Armed Forces are committed to a comprehensive strategy of development and modernization of the Egyptian navy in order to strengthen security in the areas in which it operates and boost its ability to face growing threats in the region. He noted that Egypt was a regional pioneer in the development of naval forces and, six decades ago, was the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to introduce submarines into its fleet.
The first Type 209/1400 submarine, the “S41”, was launched in Kiel, Germany, in December 2015. On October 21, 2015, Egyptian Navy Commander, Osama Rabie, announced that Egyptian Navy officers are being trained in Germany on using the submarine.
Preliminary negotiations for ex-German Navy Type 206A boats were reported to have begun in December 2004, while in mid-2009 there were unconfirmed reports that Egypt might buy a pair of Project 636/Kilo-class submarines from Russia, but these initiatives were stalled due to a lack of funding. Egypt signed a deal with Germany to buy two German-made Type-209 submarines in 2011, ordering two more in 2014. “S41” and “S42” are the first two of four submarines. Since the start of production of the first submarine at ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in Kiel, the construction program has proceeded on schedule.
According to TKMS, the HDW Class 209/1400 mod submarine is the most recent version of the HDW Class 209 "family" in a line of 63 boats contracted with 14 customer navies. Like all its predecessors, HDW Class 209/1400mod is a compact and reliable submarine featuring most recent technology, high combat strength, extraordinary battery payload and low signatures. Its comprehensive mission profiles include surveillance and intelligence gathering tasks. It is also ideally suited for Special Forces operation missions.
To increase their indiscretion rate, HDW Class 209 boats may be equipped with an HDW fuel cell plug-in section for air-independent submarine propulsion. Such integration can be carried out during a regular midlife modernization and leads to a considerable increase in submerged endurance.
According to media reports, the contract for the first two boats was worth around 900 million euros. According to the German news agency DPA, the contract for the other two submarines is estimated at well over 500 million Euros.
The new submarine, manufactured by the German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, is a technological addition to Egypt's navy and will further its capability to bolster Egyptian national security.
The majority of the Egyptian Navy's ships including the submarine fleet were received from the Soviet Union in the 1960s and China in the 1980s. Since the late 1990s, Egyptian Navy underwent a modernization project in which new vessels were acquired from Western sources such as the United States, Germany, and France.
The Egyptian Navy currently has four improved Romeo-class diesel submarines, armed with encapsulated Harpoon (Sub-Harpoon capable), and modernized with new sonar, air conditioning, and radar systems. However, the country has been looking for more modern replacements for the aging submarine fleet, over the last decade.
Egypt has learned its lessons and decided to reduce the overreliance on one provider (US) and diversifying the sources of Egypt’s armaments became a strategic priority. In spite of its financial problems, Egypt signed multi-billion (USD) contracts for arms supply with France, Germany, China and Russia.
In his speech at the handover ceremony, Admiral Osama Mounir Rabie underscored how much the Egyptian leadership values Egyptian-German relations and the closeness between their points of view on many international issues, not least the battle against terrorism and attempts to halt illegal immigration.
Egypt has over 2,000 km of coastline in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Egypt has one of the biggest navies in the Middle East, and the current arms deal will help Egypt to upgrade and modernize its navy. Egypt’s navy is currently taking part in a Saudi-led Arab operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The investment in a modern submarine fleet can be considered as an Egyptian strategic response to regional challenges and less as a part of the Egyptian counter-terror strategy against the Islamic state branches in Sinai and Libya.