Monday,22 October, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)
Monday,22 October, 2018
Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Fifty years on

Ahmed Eleiba on why the Egyptian Navy has won a top global ranking


The Egyptian Navy is celebrating its golden jubilee, an anniversary which coincides with the sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat on 21 October 1967. The warship had encroached Egypt’s territorial waters in a show of force intended to assert Israeli control over maritime routes and was sunk by a tiny naval detachment. The success of the defensive operation conducted three months after the defeat in the 1967 War — it was the first time surface-to-surface missiles were used at sea — precipitated a comprehensive change in international concepts of naval tactics.

In a press conference in Alexandria, Commander of the Egyptian Navy Vice Admiral Ahmed Khaled Hassan recalled the many historic missions in which the Navy has taken part.

The 2017 Global Firepower Index lists Egypt’s naval forces as the sixth strongest in the world, yet according to Said, such rankings, however accurate, count little to the Navy. “What matters most to us is whether we possess the combat resources and abilities to successfully perform all the tasks we are assigned,” he says.

 “The Egyptian Navy has managed to attain its global ranking by applying a clear strategy to the development of naval forces.”

Developments of the Navy in 2017

It is a three-pronged approach. The first prong focuses on the education and training of personnel through the development of the Navy’s educational system. The second includes maintaining the technical and combat efficacy of existing naval units and upgrading them with modern equipment, machinery and defence systems, while the third involves the acquisition of the latest naval hardware.

As one of the three main branches of the Egyptian Armed Forces the Navy performs a wide range of tasks protecting Egyptian national security at home and abroad. These functions, says Said, have grown in recent years and include round-the-clock protection of Egyptian ports, safeguarding navigation lanes and maritime traffic, protecting Egypt’s territorial and economic waters, preventing hostile infiltration, combating arms and drugs smuggling and illegal migration, safeguarding communications routes and the passage of commercial vessels through the Suez Canal, protecting vital installations and facilities along the coast and at sea and performing rescue and relief operations.

Said noted that the Navy’s efforts to prevent illegal migration, in collaboration with other government agencies, had resulted in a sharp decline in the number of illegal migrants.

The Navy also plays an important role in the Martyr’s Right operation against terrorist groups in Sinai. The Navy’s tasks include cordoning off the operation zone to prevent terrorists from escaping seaward and preventing the infiltration of any support from that direction. The Navy is responsible for safeguarding international maritime boundaries to the north and east and in the process it has intensified the interception, boarding and search of suspicious vessels in the vicinity of Egypt’s territorial waters. Navy commando units use light rubber craft to stage amphibious raids along the entire northern coast of the Sinai.

Turning to the Navy’s role in addressing regional security threats the naval commander drew attention to the Egyptian navy’s participation in the Restoration of Hope operation in Yemen.

Egyptian naval units, alongside the forces of the Arab coalition, have participated since operations began in March 2015 with the aim of realising security and stability for the Yemeni people.

“We have contributed a number of naval vessels to the blockade of Yemeni ports controlled by Houthi forces to prevent the smuggling of weapons and military equipment into Yemen,” says Said.

Egyptian ships also work to safeguard maritime navigation in the southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Bab Al-Mandeb.

This year saw a radical overhaul of naval bureaucracy, not least the inauguration of a northern and southern fleet in the Mediterranean and Red Sea respectively.

“The aim of the development programme is to ensure forces keep pace with global technological advances so they remain able to address conventional and non-conventional threats to the security of Egypt and the Middle East,” says the Navy commander.

“The Navy has been reorganised and divided into two fleets in order to enhance command and control efficiency and enable commanders at all levels to assess situations promptly and take the appropriate action.”

The reorganisation ensures the flexibility necessary to execute responses commensurate with the nature of the threat being posed.

The vice admiral also stressed the important role of the Egyptian Navy’s repair capabilities, the Egyptian Company for Ship Construction and Repair and the Alexandria Arsenal Company. These establishments are not only capable of maintaining and repairing all equipment in the service of the Egyptian Navy, they can also build new vessels and currently produce port security launches, guide boats and tugboats.

Egypt also collaborates with allies on joint projects which include the manufacture of Gowind-class corvettes at Alexandria Arsenal, a project undertaken in cooperation with France.

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