Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday inaugurated the new ‘3 July’ naval base in Gargoub on the country’s northwestern coast near Libya.
Egypt said the 3 July base will help it protect strategic and economic interests as well as helping guard against irregular migration as it boosts its naval presence on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
At the inauguration, 47 naval vessels were commissioned, including a GOWIND corvette, two Italian FREMM frigates, a ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Type 209 submarine, and dozens of small boats. Two Mistral helicopter carriers acquired from France were on display alongside a single recently delivered Lurssen 60 metre offshore patrol vessel and nine Lurssen OPB-40 patrol boats. It also emerged that Egypt is operating Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters from its Mistral class LHDs, together with AW149 medium lift helicopters.
Naval forces performed exercises that included the firing of missiles, parachute jumps and an amphibious landing. The opening of the 3 July base coincided with the Qader 2021 exercise, one of Egypt’s largest.
A promotional film produced by the military said the 3 July base covers 10 million square metres, has a 1 000 metre-long dock, a landing pad for helicopters, a joint command centre and training facilities.
The 3 July base, whose name marks the day in 2013 when Sisi led the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi in 2013, is spread over more than 10 sq km and has a 1 000-metre naval quay with a water depth of 14 metres. It also has quays for commercial shipping.
The inauguration, aired on state TV, was also attended by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and Mohammed al-Menfi, head of Libya’s ruling presidential council.
The opening of the 3 July base comes over a year after Egypt opened the Berenice military base in January 2020. At the time of its opening, Egypt said it was the largest on the Red Sea and one of the biggest in the region. The Egyptian presidency said the base would help protect Egypt’s coast, economic investments and natural resources and neutralise security challenges in the Red Sea as well as ensure security of traffic through the Suez Canal.
The new bases are part of a series of new military facilities across Egypt that aim to assert Egypt’s control over its borders and protect its strategic interests. For example, in July 2017, Sisi opened the massive Mohamed Naguib base, that contains a major training ground, a wide range of military equipment and tens of thousands of ground and special combat troops.
The inauguration of the 3 July base comes at a time of high tension in Libya and growing Egyptian fears from rampant unrest in the neighbouring country that could spread into the Egyptian Western Desert and then to Cairo and other Egyptian cities.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates backed the eastern-based Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar as conflict escalated in Libya after 2014, but Cairo has increasingly thrown support behind a United Nations-led effort to reunify the country. That process created a new three-man presidential council headed by Mohamed al-Menfi, who attended Saturday’s inauguration.