Egypt has requested follow-on technical support for a variety of United States-built naval vessels that is worth nearly $550 million.
The request was announced by the US State Department on 30 July, with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivering the required certification notifying Congress of the possible sale on 29 July.
The support covers material and labour in support of Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigates (FFG-7 class ships), fast missile craft (FMC), mine hunter coastal (MHC) ships, coastal mine hunter (CMH) ships, and 25 meter and 28 meter fast patrol craft (FPC). The estimated cost is $554 million.
“Egypt intends to use this technical maintenance and service support to ensure the Egyptian Navy is operationally capable of providing coastal defence and security. The proposed sale will increase the Egyptian Navy’s material and operational readiness,” the State Department said.
The prime contractor for Engineering Services Support will be VSE Corporation, with the contract to last for approximately five years.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to provide a strategic partner with critical support for multiple type ships responsible for Egypt’s maritime security. The proposed sale is essential to maintain Egypt’s national security, regional stability, and the free flow of worldwide commerce via the Suez Canal,” the State Department concluded.
Egypt has a large naval fleet, which is the sixth largest in the world, tasked with securing the Mediterranean and Red Seas, especially the vital Suez Canal. Maritime security has become an even more pressing issue with the increase in attacks on shipping by Houthi rebels off Yemen’s coast, and the seizure by Iran of oil tankers in the Gulf.
Egypt’s naval fleet is made up of South Korean, Spanish, Chinese, Polish, British, Italian and Russian vessels, but a substantial number have been supplied by the United States. This includes four Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates, two Knox class frigates, four Ambassador Mk III fast missile craft, three Dhat al Sawari class minehunters, two Osprey class minehunters and two Safaga class survey vessels. On the smaller end of the scale, the Egyptian Navy has in service a dozen 20 metre Sea Spectre PB Mk III, nine Swiftships and three Textron class patrol boats, as well as two dozen 26 metre Swiftships and a dozen Peterson class patrol craft.
The United States is a major supplier of Egyptian military equipment, from land to air, and this includes M1 Abrams main battle tanks, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and F-16 fighter jets, although Egypt has of late been diversifying its procurement sources and manufacturing equipment locally.
Egypt continues to maintain strong defence ties with the United States and these were reinforced last month by the visit of Eypt’s new defence minister General Mohamed Zaki to the United States, where he met with US defence secretary Dr Mark T Esper.
“The United States-Egypt strategic relationship is a top priority for this administration and department, and I look forward to continuing our militaries’ close partnership across a wide range of issues,” Esper said at the beginning of the Pentagon meeting.
Egypt is a key ally in the Middle East, the secretary said, with a wide range of mutual interests, from counterterrorism to maritime security to capacity building. “Egypt has a powerful voice, and we welcome your efforts to support stability throughout the region,” Esper said.
Zaki said that the discussions are appropriate given the “deteriorating security situation in the Middle East.” He said he hopes the talks will lead to increased cooperation and coordination across a wide range of security issues and that the military talks help set the stage for the entire US-Egyptian relationship.
The defence minister praised U.S. efforts to help Egypt build military capacity to “realize national security.” Egypt is a member of both the Arab League and the African Union, and it has the largest military on the African continent.
On average, the United States provides $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year.
A further sign of close cooperation between the United States and Egypt is the Eagle Salute – Eagle Response 2019 exercise that was held in the Red Sea. Various units from the Egyptian, US and UAE navies took part using frigates, missile boats and mine hunters. The several day long exercise concluded on 4 August.