Egypt's Naval Force Build-Up in the Face of Regional Threats

Earlier this month, Egypt raised the national flag on board a new Type-209/1400 submarine. Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay discusses Egypt's investment in a modern submarine fleet as part of a strategic response to regional challenges

On April 19, 2017, Egypt's Navy raised the national flag aboard a Type-209/1400 (S-41) submarine newly arrived from Germany at a ceremony in Alexandria.  

In his speech, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Rear Admiral Khaled Hassan Said commented: "We are witnessing today a new and important moment in the history of our Navy and a new episode in its development. The Navy is working to enhance its combat capacities in order to ensure full and comprehensive control over the coasts of the Arab Republic of Egypt and safeguard its territorial and economic waters." The Admiral went on to note that the S-41 (Type 209/1400), one of the most modern submarines in the world, was a testimony to the "vision of our political leaders in addressing the mounting challenges and threats in the region."

On April 27, 2017, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi promoted the Commander of the Naval Forces Ahmed Said from Rear Admiral to Vice Admiral during the closing ceremony of the country’s monthly youth conference in Ismailiya.

During the celebration, Navy Chief of Staff Ahmed Khaled Said noted that the attack submarine was one of the most advanced of its kind, and would help the country combat ongoing and future security challenges. "The armed forces have adopted a comprehensive strategy to develop the Navy and its fighting abilities, and to provide the necessary infrastructure," he said.

The new submarine, manufactured by the German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, officially joined the navy's fleet. Egypt first celebrated its handover in Germany in December 2016.

The submarine sailed out from Kiel on March 28, 2017, completing the 3,644-mile journey in 22 days. During its journey to Alexandria, the submarine passed through several waterways including Kiel Canal, the Elbe River and the Strait of Gibraltar before reaching Alexandria's Ras El-Tin naval base. On April 18, 2017, it joined a joint training exercise with other naval units off the Egyptian coast, ensuring its readiness to join the fleet.

Egyptian naval vessels that took part in the reception ceremony for the S41 included a Mistral aircraft carrier, FREMM frigate, and Sajam frigate.

Egypt signed a deal with Germany to buy two German-made Type-209 submarines in 2011, ordering two more in 2014.

The Type 209\1400 Class Submarine

Type 209 is a class of diesel-electric attack submarine developed exclusively for export by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) of Germany. The HDW Class 209/1400-Mod submarine is the most recent version of the HDW Class 209 "family" (209/1100, 209/1200, 209/1300, 209/1400 and 209/1500) in a line of 63 boats contracted with 14 customer navies.

Like all its predecessors, HDW Class 209/1400-Mod is a compact and reliable submarine featuring most recent technology, high combat strength, extraordinary battery payload and low signatures. Its comprehensive mission profiles also include surveillance and intelligence gathering tasks. It is also ideally suited for Special Forces operation missions.

The Type 209/1400-Mod has an overall length of 61.2 m and a surfaced displacement of 1,280 tons. Type 209 submarines are armed with eight bow 533 mm torpedo tubes and 14 torpedoes. The Type 209/1400s used by Turkey are also armed with Sub-Harpoon missiles. The class can be armed with a variety of torpedo models depending upon the country. The majority of boats carry Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) or the Special Surface Target (SST) torpedoes.

Summary

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.

The new four Type 209/1400 submarines are a significant upgrade of the Egyptian Navy's operational capabilities. With four submarines of that type, Egypt will have one for maintenance, one for training, one ready to dive and one at sea.

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.

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