The Egyptian Navy has taken delivery of the first of two FREMM frigates from Italy, with the Al Galala arriving in Egypt at the end of December.
The Egyptian military said the vessel arrived at Alexandria’s naval base on 30 December as the Navy witnesses a “massive technological breakthrough” in new technology and capabilities.
The reception ceremony was attended by a number of Armed Forces leaders, a number of former Egyptian Marine Corps leaders and a number of Navy college students.
The vessel, formerly the Spartaco Schergat (F598), was originally built for the Italian Navy but sold prior to completion. Sea trials off Italy started at the beginning of December. Manufacturer Fincantieri handed it over during a ceremony on 22 December at its Muggiano shipyard near La Spezia.
It was reported in early 2020 that Egypt was interested in buying two FREMM frigates from Italy, drawn from the Italian Navy’s procurement programme – the vessels Spartaco Schergat and Emilio Bianchi, launched in January 2019 and January 2020, respectively – enabling Fincantieri to sell the vessels for an estimated cost of €1.2 billion.
Naval News reports that the Italian government authorised the sale in August last year. The deal was apparently jeopardised by concerns over Egypt’s human rights record, especially after Italian student Giulio Regeni was tortured and murdered in Cairo in 2016.
The frigate sale is apparently part of a larger deal that includes four more frigates, 20 Falaj class corvettes, 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, 24 M346 jet trainers, and a surveillance satellite, but it is not clear how far along these deals are to being signed. Leonardo has already received an 871 million euro contract to supply 24 AW149 and eight AW189 helicopters to Egypt’s military, some of which will be used aboard navy ships.
Egypt’s interest in the FREMM frigates – as well as its decision in 2019 to procure up to six warships from Germany, at least three of which are Meko frigates – came as Cairo’s relationship with France cooled and military procurement shifted towards other European suppliers. However, Egypt is believed to once again be interested in acquiring further military hardware from France, including Rafale fighters.
Al Galala (FFG 1002) is in ‘general purpose’ configuration and armed with a Leonardo 127/64 mm LightWeight (LW) mm gun, a 76/62 mm Super Rapido gun and two 25 mm guns as well as the MBDA SAAM-ESD (Surface Anti-Air Missile – Extended Self-Defence) Air Defence Missile system able to launch the Aster family of surface-to-air missiles. Some sensitive equipment particular to the Italian Navy, including electronic warfare systems, have apparently been removed.
The Italian Navy’s Carlo Bergamini-class FREMM frigates have a full load displacement of about 6 500 tons, an overall length of about 144 meters and can reach a top speed of 27 knots with a maximum cruising range of 6 800 nautical miles at 15 knots.
The second Italian FREMM frigate is expected to arrive in Egypt later this year.
Egypt previously received the French FREMM frigate Normandie (Tahya Misr) from France in 2015, optimised for anti-submarine warfare.