The recent €950 million purchase of the two Mistral-class amphibious ships (LHDs) that France had originally built for Russia illustrates the close defence relationship between Egypt and France.
The ships are expected to be delivered in March 2016, with crew training and modification to Egyptian specifications included in the package. Indeed, this deal makes Egypt France’s number one weapons customer. In just 18 months, Egypt has ordered roughly $8 billion worth of French weapons and services.
The cooperation began in early 2014 with the purchase of four Gowind corvettes, derived from the DCNS L’Adroit offshore patrol vessel. The value of the contract is estimated at about €1 billion, but the corvettes will also add €400 million worth of MBDA’s MICA Vertical Launch air-defence missiles and MM-40 Exocet anti-ship missiles, and DCNS’ torpedoes for €100-200 million. Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2017.
In addition, in February 2015, Egypt became the first export buyer of the Dassault Rafale, with an order of 24 aircraft in a deal which also includes a FREMM frigate and a large quantity of guided weapons to be supplied mostly by MBDA and also SAGEM. This package was estimated to be worth €5.3 billion. Three Rafales were delivered in July 2015 and the FREMM frigate was previously delivered in June.
That is not all as Egypt recently announced two other deals under negotiation and two potential deals with France. The largest deal concerns NH90 naval helicopters for the Gowind and Mistral vessels. The value of the contract is still unknown. Cairo has also decided to acquire another FREMM frigate and two additional Gowinds.
Moreover, on October 5 a Spanish website revealed an upcoming deal concerning an unspecified number of A400M airlifters which will generate hundreds of millions of Euros. Pilar Albiac, the executive VP of Airbus Defence & Space, is quoted as saying “that Egypt had requested delivery of A400M airlifters as soon as possible.”
SAGEM recently signed an “exclusive commercial and industrial collaboration agreement” with Egyptian manufacturer AOI-Aircraft Factory for the Patroller unmanned aerial vehicle.
Nevertheless, Egypt is simultaneously diversifying its armament suppliers with countries other than France. When Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi was Defense Minister in early 2014, he signed a MoU with Russia worth $3.5 billion for the supply of 12 Russian Sukhoi Superjets for the national carrier Egypt Air, to be delivered at the end of 2016. The deal also implies other arms supplies, including 4th generation MIG-29M fighter jets, Mi-35M attack helicopters, S-300VM and Tor-2ME surface to air missiles, a Bastion coastal missile system, Mi-17 helicopters and Kornet anti-tank missiles.
Russian Helicopters is also ready to supply $1 billion worth of equipment and aircraft for Egypt’s Mistrals, including 50 Kamov Ka-52K helicopters, the naval version of the Ka-52 Alligator.
In addition, UK has also resumed arms sales to Egypt, with military sales licenses granted for components of military combat vehicles worth $76.3 million in the first quarter of 2015. According to a recent Newsweek report, “the figures point to a 3,000% annual increase in the value of military sales to Egypt by British weapon exporters”.
Egypt’s submarine fleet is also about to be replenished with an upcoming contract for two German Type 209 submarines, in addition to the pair which will be delivered in 2017. In September, China also communicated its will to supply Egypt with an unspecified number of submarines.
Last but not least, bilateral cooperation appears to have been clearly invigorated between Egypt and the US, as illustrated by the resumption of the co-production of M1A1 Abrams tanks between Egyptian Tank Plant and General Dynamics Land Systems. Since 2013 and the US government’s freezing of military aid towards Egypt to protest against the 2013 coup, the production of 125 M1A1 Abrams tanks ordered by Egypt in 2011 had been suspended. The unlocking of vital components of the $1.3 billion annual military aid package (FMF) to Egypt, has led to US delivery of 10 of the 12 AH-64 Apache helicopters ordered in 2009, 12 of the F-16 fighter jets ordered in 2012 and two Fast Missile Craft ordered by the Egyptian Navy. The list will continue as the delivery of 20 Boeing Harpoon and some Lockheed Martin Hellfire missiles, announced in March by Washington, is imminent.