Armed forces from Egypt, Greece and Cyprus conducted joint naval and aerial exercise in Egypt's territorial waters in the Mediterranean.
The “Medusa 8” drills, held from 13 to 19 April 2019, aimed to boost military cooperation between the three countries "in the framework of the annual plan for joint exercises by the [Egyptian] Armed Forces to promote and support military cooperation with brotherly and friendly countries,” said a statement by the Egyptian Armed Forces.
The Hellenic Armed Forces assigned one Frigate, one Armatower, one submarine, and one minesweeper, as well as 8 F-16 fighters, one early warning aircraft, one Chinook helicopter, and three AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.
Egypt assigned its ENS Anwar El-Sadat helicopter carrier as well as one frigate, two Fast Attack Craft Missile (FAC-M) vessels, one Type 209 submarine, 8 F-16 jets, and one AWACS aircraft. Cyprus sent one Open Seas Patrol vessel.
Special Forces from all three countries also took part in the drills, and Greece also sent a platoon of Marines.
Observers from Bulgaria, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Bahrain, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan and the US have been invited to the exercise.
The early stages of the drills included activities on planning and managing joint combat and air and maritime reconnaissance activities. The main stage of Medusa 8 included live fire training by naval units and landing operations by amphibious and airborne forces.
The defense ministers, Egypt’s Mohamed Zaki, Greece’s Evangelos Apostolakis and Savvas Angelidis of Cyprus observed the main part of the exercise.
Defense Minister Zaki asserted the depth of the military ties binding the three countries. He also lauded the level of coordination and cooperation among the three countries in the different domains, asserting that Egypt is looking forward to more cooperation in the future to boost efforts exerted to achieve development and stability and combat terror.
The three countries conducted the “Medusa 7” joint military exercise on November 24-30, 2018. According to the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), the land, air and sea exercise on and around the island of Crete was observed by military representatives from the US, Italy, Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.
“Medusa 7” witnessed the participation of Egyptian naval forces college students within their overseas training programs, as well as the attendance of a number of youths from the country’s presidential leadership program.
Greece’s then-Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and his counterparts from Cyprus and Egypt, Angelidis and Zaki, attended the final phase of the exercise. The ministers hailed the forces carrying out the training, which they say “reflects a special level of cooperation between the forces of the three countries.”
The Hellenic Armed Forces participated with three frigates with navy helicopters, one submarine, two missile ships, eight F-16 aircraft, one aircraft of the 380 Airborne Early Warning & Control System Squadron, one Super Puma helicopter, three Chinook helicopters, four AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, and two Marine and Special Forces units.
The Egyptian Armed Forces assigned its ENS Anwar El Sadat Mistral-Class helicopter carrier, one frigate, one submarine, two missile ships, six F-16s, one E2-C aircraft, as well as Special Forces. Cyprus also sent Special Forces, as well as one offshore vessel.
The purpose of the exercise was to promote the cooperation of the Armed Forces of the participating countries by improving the level of operational training in a multi-threat environment, according to an announcement by the General Secretariat for Defense.
The exercise included the implementation of several activities, such as sailing formations during daytime and nighttime operations, helicopter take-offs and landing training, and naval warfare. The exercise demonstrated the ability of the participating naval units to take their positions with a high degree of accuracy and speed.
The maneuvers included training for maritime interdiction operations and the right to visit and search suspected ships; training on search and rescue procedures and the exchanging of communications between naval vessels, offshore units and train crews to carry out various exercises at sea.
Other exercises included securing offshore units using air-defense weapons and securing lines of communication and the movement of maritime transport. The Special Forces units executed training related to amphibious landing exercises on the coast.
Egyptian and Greek air and naval forces have conducted a joint military exercise from July 30 to August 3, 2017. The exercise was held in the framework of the cooperation between the two countries.
The Hellenic Navy assigned its Hydra-class frigate HS Spetsai, Elli-class frigate HS Kanaris, a submarine and a range of aircraft. The Egyptian Navy sent its Mistral-class landing helicopter dock Anwar El-Sadat, FREMM frigate Tahya Misr, and the submarine S 41. Egyptian F-16 fighter jets also took part in the exercise.
The forces took part in surface, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare exercises, in addition to search and rescue drills, fire exercises and maritime interdiction operations training.
Egypt's Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazi and Chief of the Greek National Defense General Staff (HNDGS) Evangelos Apostolakis attended the main phase of the drills on August 3, 2017.
Speaking on the occasion, Hegazi commended the great performance of the troops participating in the exercises, a matter that reflected their combat preparedness. He lauded deeply-rooted ties and military cooperation between the armed forces of both Egypt and Greece. For his part, Apostolakis extolled the high performance of the troops participating in the exercises.
Stepping up the fight against terrorism
In April 2015, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi visited Cyprus for a summit with the leaders of Cyprus and Greece, agreeing to step up the fight against terrorism in the region.
On December 10, 2015, El-Sisi signed an agreement with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that will see the three countries working closely on energy and security issues.
The three leaders agreed on the establishment of a “standing Joint Committee of Cooperation” that will focus on tourism, investment and energy projects related to Egypt, Cyprus and Greece.
The signed agreement also affirmed the three countries’ dedication to combating terrorism and the issue of illegal immigration, while boosting economic projects that will benefit the three countries, including a plan to take full advantage of natural gas and hydrocarbon resources in the region.
As a part of the agreement, Egyptian, Greek and Cypriot naval forces conducted a joint drill in the Mediterranean.
While it was reported that the exercise was planned in advance, it occurred a month after Turkey conducted its biggest naval exercise in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean (“Blue Homeland”) and during a time of increased tension in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. The Exercise took place amid Ankara’s plans to send a second drilling vessel to areas around the divided island of Cyprus, after the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said the country would start drilling to look for oil and gas.
All countries, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, have political and economic disputes with Turkey. To respond to the challenges, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus became strategic allies. The "Medusa 8" exercise is one of the most important drills in the Mediterranean, and reflects the level of cooperation among Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus. The joint exercise came in the context of augmenting distinctive relationships, bolstering cooperation and exchanging expertise between the armed forces of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus.
Turkey took a stance in opposition to the tripartite alliance of Egypt-Greece-Cyprus since it was announced in 2014. Ankara views the alliance as directed against Turkey because of its tense relations with the three countries. However, Cairo, Athens and Nicosia denied such claims, affirming that the alliance is not directed against any of their Mediterranean neighbors, but the statements could not change Turkey’s convictions and views on the alliance.
The joint exercise is part of the Egyptian armed forces plan for joint training with friendly countries to boost military cooperation and exchange of training experiences across different fields.
[Sources: Ahram Online, Defense Point, Naval Today, Egypt Today, Greek Reporter]