The Egyptian Navy is Stronger than Ever Before

With the delivery of the second mistral class helicopter carrier completed, Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay explains how the current arms deal with France will help Egypt to upgrade its already powerful navy

Mistral-class helicopter carrier docking at Saint-Nazaire harbor (Photo: AP)

On September 16, 2016, the Egyptian Navy Commander, Admiral Osama Rabie, raised the Egyptian flag on board of the BPC-210 Mistral Class amphibious assault ship (BPC/LHD). The new BPC-210 Mistral, which is named after late president Anwar El-Sadat, was received by Admiral Osama Rabie during an inauguration ceremony at Saint-Nazaire harbor in western France. The ceremony was attended by France’s Navy Commander Admiral Christophe Prazuck and a number of senior military commanders from both sides, as well as representatives for the Mistral manufacturers DCNS.

"The delivery of the Landing Helicopter Dock vessel Anwar El Sadat is a demonstration of trust that we have established with the Arab Republic of Egypt to support the expansion of its navy," said Herve Guillou, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DCNS. "We are very proud to see, being brought under the Egyptian flag, a ship which is the result of the French industrial excellence."

The Anwar El-Sadat, with its Egyptian crew, will now take part in an exercise with the French Navy before sailing to its homeport of Alexandria.

This is the second Mistral helicopter carrier that Egypt received. The first Mistral helicopter carrier named after late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser arrived in Alexandria in June 2016.

Egypt acquired two BPC-210 Mistral Class amphibious assault ships (BPC/LHD) from France, originally been contracted by Russia, after their sale to Russia was canceled by France, in August 2014, in response to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

Russia and Egypt had signed a deal for Egypt’s purchase of 50 Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters from Russia. The purchase includes the variant of the Ka-52 Katran, which specifically designed for the Mistrals that Russia had intended to acquire.

The Egyptian navy commander and his French counterpart have discussed ways of boosting bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest in the region.

The BPC-210 Mistral Class Amphibious Assault Ship (BPC/LHD)

The primary mission for these ships is amphibious landing operations. They also provide command and force projection capability.

The Mistral class vessel uses four mechanized landing craft (LCM) or two hovercraft (LCAC) in the stern deck to deliver troops and vehicles ashore. It can carry a full tank battalion with up to 40 MBTs, or up to 70 lighter vehicles. The ship provides accommodation for 450 Marines; however, the surge capacity is 900.

The Mistral class LHD has six helicopter landing spots. Up to 16 medium (NH90, Tigre) or 35 light helicopters can be carried and stored in the hangar deck. It is worth mentioning that every helicopter, operated by the French military, can land on these ships.

The ships are equipped with 69 hospital beds and a hangar that can be converted into a modular field hospital. The Mistral class can be deployed as command and control vessels – while the command center can host up to 150 personnel.

The vessel is armed with two Simbad launchers for Mistral surface-to-air missiles and two 30-mm Breda-Mauser guns.

The Ka-52K

The Ka-52K is a naval deck-based variant of the Ka-52 Alligator. The combat capabilities of the ship-based version of the Ka-52 are considered inferior to the land-based one. The main difference between the helicopters is operational. The Katran has folding blades so that it can fit in a helicopter carrier's hangar, while the navigation system has been slightly upgraded to ensure flights over the sea and boarding and landing on the ship.

Russian Helicopters is the sole Russian rotorcraft designer and manufacturer and one of the few companies worldwide with the capability to design, manufacture, service, and test modern civilian and military helicopters.

Summary

The Mistral deal is valued at 950 million Euros is part of several defense contracts Egypt signed with France, and France now topping the list of countries to have signed military supply agreements with Egypt during the term of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

Mistral Class ships, designed for a large helicopter aviation role as well as amphibious landing and support of troops, would improve Egypt's capabilities in these areas. The Ka-52K helicopters, combined with the Mistral ships’ troop landing capabilities, offer Egypt a whole new dimension of offensive and influence operations.

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.

Egypt could use the two new warships to transport about 1,000 troops, armored vehicles and helicopters to intervene in Yemen, Libya or other countries where Egypt and a joint Arab force might become involved. The addition of the Mistral ships and the new helicopters could also provide a counter-balance against increasing Iranian influence in the region.

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