Egypt's Arms Diversity Strategy

Egypt has learned its lessons and decided to reduce the overreliance on one arms provider, the US. Dr. Shaul Shay on Egypt's ties with Russia, China, Germany and France, as part of the strategic priority that is diversifying the sources of Egypt’s armaments

Egypt's Arms Diversity Strategy

The Egyptian need to diversify its arms origins was driven by Washington’s growing tendency to link arms sales to political developments. The US first called off the Bright Star joint military exercises, then halted the delivery of arms purchases to Egypt and suspended maintenance and training.  At the end of March 2014, Washington unfroze its military assistance but continued to denounce rights violations in Egypt and the repression of Islamists. Egypt responded by turning to Russia, China, Germany and France.                                    

In June 2015 the Egyptian new strategy was implemented with a joint naval exercise with Russia, and the purchase of a frigate from France and 2 fast missile boats from the U.S.

French Frigate

Egypt received a FREMM (European multipurpose frigate) at the port of Lorient in west France on June 23, 2015, as part of a military deal it had signed with France in February 2015 to upgrade its military force in the face of ongoing regional crises. The multipurpose frigate weighs almost 2,000 tons and is 142 meters in length.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said the delivery is the “first step” in creating a “unique relationship” between the two states, adding that Paris acknowledges Egypt’s central role in ensuring security in the region.

Egypt’s Defense Minister and Army Commander Sedqi Sobhi had left for France on June 2, 2015, to meet with French military officials.

In February 2015, Egypt and France had signed a deal whereby Cairo purchased 24 French Rafale jet fighters, the naval frigate and air-to-air missiles. The contract made Egypt the first export customer for the warplane, built by Dassault Aviation.

The deal in total is worth more than 5 billion euros ($5.70 billion). The French government loaned Egypt 3.2 billion euros to finance the multibillion-euro purchase of French military equipment.

U.S Fast Missile Boats

The United States have delivered two fast missile naval vessels to the Egyptian navy, the US embassy in Cairo announced on June 22, 2015. In a statement, the US embassy in Cairo said that the fast missile crafts built in Pascagoula, Mississippi, had arrived in Alexandria on board a US transport ship on June 17,2015, and would join the Egyptian naval fleet in the coming weeks. 

“This delivery effectively doubles Egypt's total fleet of fast missile craft from two to four," said the statement, describing the vessels as a $1.1 billion "investment" by the US in "the bilateral strategic partnership” between both countries.

"The Fast Missile Craft directly supports maritime and regional security, which includes protecting vital waterways such as the Suez Canal and the Red Sea," said Major General Charles Hooper, a senior defense official at the American embassy. "This delivery is a sign of America's ongoing commitment to Egypt and to our shared security interests in Egypt and the region," he added.

Russian – Egyptian Naval Exercise

Russia and Egypt conducted the first joint naval exercise, codenamed the "Friendship Bridge 2015", on June 6, 2015. Russia and Egypt have commenced their joint naval exercise off the Mediterranean Egyptian port of Alexandria, as part of efforts to strengthen military co-operation between the countries.

Moscow's relations with Cairo have steadily improved since general Abd al Fatah al Sisi came to power. President Vladimir Putin visited Egypt last February, his first visit to the country in a decade, after a 2011 popular uprising ousted ex-strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian Defense Minister, Sedqi Sobhi visited in Moscow in March 2015 and during the visit the two countries decided to hold a joint naval drill in the Mediterranean, and select Egyptian soldiers and officers will be trained in Russian military academies.

The joint naval drill came on the heels of a nearly $2 billion arms deal for Moscow to supply Egypt with the advanced S-300 air defense system, MiG fighter jets and other arms.

Egypt and China's Arms Deal

In May 2015, Defense Minister Sedky Sobhi has visited in China and signed contracts for new weapons and military equipment with his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan. Sobhi and Wanquan also signed joint manufacturing agreements.

German Submarines

Germany and Egypt have signed agreements for Germany to supply Egypt with four conventional diesel-electric, Type 209, attack submarines, manufactured by ThyssenKrupp.

Not Just One Provider

Ties with the United States plummeted after Egypt's army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, with Washington freezing its annual $1.3 billion in military aid. At the end of March Washington unfroze its military assistance but continued to denounce rights violations in Egypt and the repression of Islamists.  In April 2015, the White House announced that it was restoring military aid to Egypt, aiding efforts to boost Cairo's ability to combat the extremist threat in the region.

Egypt has learned its lessons and decided to reduce the overreliance on one provider (U.S) and diversifying the sources of Egypt’s armaments became a strategic priority. Egypt was also keen to ensure its armaments policy responded to international political developments, including the growing influence of China and Russia.

In spite of its financial problems, Egypt has signed multibillion (U.S dollars) contracts for arms supply with France, Germany, China and Russia.

Egypt has one of the biggest navies in the Middle East and the current arms deals 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. Egyptian forces are focused on securing the Red Sea, to the south of Egypt's Suez Canal.

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