Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1302, (30 June - 13 July 2016)
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1302, (30 June - 13 July 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Mistral arrives

The first of two new Mistral-class aircraft carriers arrived at the Ras Al-Tin Naval Base in Alexandria last week, reports Ahmed Eleiba

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt has officially celebrated the arrival of the Mistral-class aircraft carrier, dubbed the Abdel-Nasser, which arrived at the Ras Al-Tin Naval Base in Alexandria last week. The French-made war ship was greeted by special ceremonies performed by Egyptian naval units and attended by the commander of the navy and other senior military officials on 23 June.

The second Mistral helicopter carrier, named the Anwar Sadat, is due to arrive in September after the completion of special training programmes for its crew and necessary trial runs. The second amphibious assault ship, which has the same specifications as the Abdel-Nasser, will soon set off from the French military base of Saint-Nazaire on its way to receiving a similar reception in Ras Al-Tin.

Egyptian navy commander Osama Rabie said that the Mistral is a “major addition” to Egypt’s naval forces, adding that the inclusion of these sophisticated ships will enhance the capacities of the Egyptian Armed Forces as a whole.

He underscored Egypt’s close relations with France and the ongoing joint training exercises, the most recent of which were the Cleopatra naval manoeuvres that the Abdel-Nasser took part in before its arrival in Egypt.

Russia is equipping the ships with Kamov Ka-52 Alligator helicopters and 46 specially designed and equipped Ka-52s have been ordered from Moscow. Egypt will also receive other Russian-made equipment especially designed for the Mistrals, which were originally manufactured for Russia before the contract was transferred to Cairo with the consent of Paris and Moscow.

Talaat Moussa, a professor of national security studies at the Nasser Higher Military Academy in Cairo, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the country has a carefully worked out strategy to develop its armaments systems in all military sectors.

The strategy means “acquiring the most advanced armament systems to meet and keep pace with the highest levels of danger,” he said. The Mistral “is the latest helicopter carrier in the world. It has highly sophisticated command and control capacities and is the first of its type in the Middle East,” he said.

Global armaments ratings say Egypt has one of the best-equipped navies in the world, according to military experts in Cairo. It has a naval strength of 319 compared to Israel’s 66, according to Global Firepower, an index of global military rankings.

Russia also announced that it has presented Egypt with a new warship, a Russian Project 1241-class R-32 missile corvette equipped with four P-270 Moskit anti-ship missiles. With ranges of between 120 to 140 km, these powerful missiles can fly at an altitude of 20 km above sea level and then drop to seven metres at the last minute before striking their targets. They are specifically designed to target large military vessels.

The Sputnik News Agency, which announced the details of the Russian gift to Egypt, cited Russian navy spokesman Viktor Kochemazov as saying that the political and military leadership in Russia “wishes to help Egypt fight terrorism not just on land but also at sea.”

While the Russian missiles are relatively old models that date back to the Soviet era, they have advantages such as their supersonic speeds which make it difficult for ship radar systems to track them. The Moskit warhead reportedly also has a high destruction power.

By 2017, Cairo is also expected to receive four new frigates to flank the Fremm Aquitaine-class frigate Tahya Masr which is set for construction at the naval arsenal in Alexandria with French assistance. At the same time, Egypt will receive its first German-manufactured Type-209 submarines.

 “There is an armaments balance that needs to be considered in diversifying armaments sources,” Mohamed Qashqoush, an expert on armaments, said in an interview with the Weekly. “There are advantages and disadvantages, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.”

He agreed with the current strategy of developing the Armed Forces. “There is no such thing as developing a single branch of the country’s defences. There has to be a comprehensive development of the system as a whole that includes both weapons and combatants,” he said.

“The acquisition of the best available weapons to meet strategic purposes must proceed side by side with the latest capacity-building and training programmes on the use of the new weapons that were not in our arsenal before, including the Mistral.”

He added that the training of Egyptian personnel on this crucial addition to the Egyptian fleet will be provided by the French navy and DCNS and STX Europe, two of the world’s largest arms-manufacturing firms, which oversaw the design and manufacture of the Mistral.

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