Egypt, France Conclude Joint Naval Exercise

The "Cleopatra 2017" drills included planning and management of joint offensive and defensive combat operations, inspection of suspicious vessels, helicopter maneuvers, and coastal landing

Naval exercise Cleopatra 2017 (Photo Credit: Defence Blog)

Egyptian and French naval forces concluded on July 12, 2017, joint naval military exercises dubbed "Cleopatra 2017," which ran for two days in Egyptian territorial waters in the Mediterranean and Red seas. The "Cleopatra 2017" maneuvers follow last year's "Ramses 2016" and "Cleopatra 2016" exercises.

The exercise included planning and management of joint offensive and defensive combat operations, inspection of suspicious vessels, transportation exercises, helicopter maneuvers, air defense and coastal landing.

The drills saw the participation of the amphibious assault ships of the French Mistral class, including Egypt's newly-purchased Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar El-Sadat, as well as a number of frigates and boats with rocket launchers, F-16 fighter jets, and anti-submarines aircraft that detect and combat submarines.

The Spokesman of the Egyptian armed forces said, "The training is in the framework of supporting distinguished relations and enhancing cooperation and exchange of experience between the armed forces of each country."

The exercises were attended by Egyptian naval commander, Vice Admiral Ahmed Khaled and French naval commander Admiral Christophe Prazuck.

Exercise "Cleopatra 2016"

Egyptian and French naval forces have concluded their joint naval exercises dubbed "Cleopatra 2016", on June 20-23, 2016, near the coastlines of Egypt. The exercises included a number of activities such as planning and carrying out naval offensives.

Egypt’s BPC-210 Mistral Class amphibious assault ship (BPC/LHD), named after late President Gamal Abdel Nasser took part in the exercise. It also made a two-week pilot voyage from France's Saint-Nazaire, with 170 sailors and 50 French defense experts on board, according to Al-Ahram Arabic.

After taking part in the military drill "Cleopatra 2016", the BPC-210 Mistral arrived at Ras Al-Tin Naval Base in Alexandria.

The "Ramses 2016" Military and Naval Exercise

Egypt and France conducted in March 2016, the "Ramses 2016" joint military and naval maneuvers held off the coast of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Paris announced that the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which was used to launch air strikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, took part in the maneuvers.

The drill aimed at "sharing our expertise with the Egyptian military... one of our most important Middle East partners," the French defense ministry said at the time.

The Egyptian Astatedthat a French multi-mission frigate purchased by Cairo last year also took part in the drill along with Rafale combat jets and F-16 warplanes.

The "Cleopatra 2014" Joint Naval Exercise

From May 26 to June 4, 2014, France and Egypt have conducted their joint naval exercises, codenamed "Cleopatra 2014." The exercises took place near the southern French port of Toulon.

More than 1,200 sailors participated in the exercises, including 700 Egyptians on board the frigates Rashied and Alexandria, patrol craft October 6th and 25th April and tanker Shalatien.

As for the French Navy participation, it included stealth frigate Courbet, the offshore patrol commander Bouan supply ship, the Montcalm anti-submarine frigate, a nuclear attack submarine and maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters.

The exercises included firing live ammunition to repel and destroy hostile surface and air targets and conducting refueling and supply missions. They also oversaw the launch of night-time sorties by anti-submarine helicopters.

The Military Cooperation Between Egypt And France

French President Francois Hollande arrived in Egypt on April 17, 2016, on a trip in which the two countries signed deals worth about 2 billion euros. His visit to Cairo came as part of a Middle East tour that included visits to Jordan and Lebanon.

On the sidelines of a two-day visit by French President Francois Hollande to Cairo, French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, met his counterpart, Egypt’s Defense Minister Sedki Sobhy and visited the base, which hosts a number of Rafale jet fighters purchased by Egypt last year.

Egypt is France’s number one weapons customer. In just 18 months, Egypt ordered roughly $8 billion worth of French weapons and services.

During the visit of President Hollande, France and Egypt signed 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) worth of deals with France to purchase warships and a military satellite.

One of the contracts sees French naval shipbuilder DCNS build four naval vessels, including two Gowind corvettes. The value of this contract is estimated at between 300 and 400 million euros. DCNS, which is mostly owned by the French state, has already sold four small Gowinds to Cairo in 2014.

As part of another deal worth around 600 million euros, Airbus Space Systems (part of European plane maker Airbus Group), and defense group Thales will jointly supply Cairo with a military telecommunication satellite. It was initially reported that Egypt was in talks to buy two French military satellites, but Cairo found the bill too expensive, with Russia and South Korea providing cheaper offers.

Military cooperation between the two countries began in early 2014 with the purchase of four Gowind corvettes, derived from the DCNS L’Adroit offshore patrol vessel. The value of the contract is estimated at €1 billion, but the corvettes will also add €400 million worth of MBDA’s MICA Vertical Launch air-defense missiles and MM-40 Exocet anti-ship missiles, and DCNS’ torpedoes for €100-200 million. Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2017.

In February 2015, Egypt became the first export buyer of the Dassault Rafale, with an order of 24 aircraft. Six of the multi-role combat jets have already been delivered by Paris to Cairo. Half of the funding for the deal will reportedly be financed by French banks, while the remainder will be paid from the Egyptian side.

In February 2015, Cairo also signed a deal to purchase a FREMM (Frégate Européenne Multi-Missions) multipurpose frigate. The FREMM frigate, the Tahya Misr, was delivered in June 2015.

In October 2015, the two countries signed a deal for the sale of two French Mistral helicopter carriers whose sale to Russia was canceled by Paris due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Summary

Paris and Cairo have nurtured close political, economic and military ties in recent years with both sides concerned by the Islamic terror and the ongoing political vacuum in Libya and both France and Egypt are part of the US-led coalition of countries fighting the Islamic State.

"Military and security cooperation" were at the heart of Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard’s meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on June 5, 2017. Goulard also held talks with her Egyptian counterpart on how to reinforce security cooperation including the best way to enhance monitoring of Egypt's borders.

France's foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian met with al-Sisi and other Egyptian officials a few days later, on June 8, 2017. He had made eight visits to Cairo in the previous three years as defense minister under former President Francois Hollande. During the visit to Cairo, Drian said the two countries had reaffirmed their shared point of view on the fight against terrorism.

The naval exercise functions in the framework of advancing the strategic and military partnership and cooperation between Egypt and France. It enforces the cooperation between both countries in defense combat operations, signal transportation exercises and securing marine units using air defense weapons among other operations.

Egypt is an important customer for French-built armaments. Since 2015, it has bought 24 Rafale airplanes, a multi-session FREMM frigate, 5.2-billion-euros-worth of missiles and two Mistrals worth about 950 million euros.

In 2016, Egypt carried out 30 joint military exercises with 20 Arab and African countries, as well as European countries including France and Russia.

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