Egypt signs Mistral contract with France


Egypt on Saturday signed a contract with French shipbuilder DCNS to buy two Mistral helicopter carriers for approximately 950 million euros after their sale to Russia was cancelled in August. The North African country is also interested in acquiring A400M and NH90 aircraft from Europe.

The Mistral sale was originally announced on 23 September. The contract signature came as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls began a three nation Arab tour. He met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Saturday.

Valls, French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian and their Egyptian counterparts, Sherif Ismail and Sedky Sobhy attended the deal-signing ceremony, along with al-Sisi and French diplomats.

The vessels will be delivered in March next year. The companies responsible for the vessels’ construction, DCNS and STX, are busy removing Russian equipment and systems from the ships. As of yet there had been no talks on the potential armament for the carrier, which can hold up to 16 helicopters and 1 000 troops.

According to French government sources, Egypt will pay 950 million euros for the warships, with “significant” financing from Saudi Arabia, reports Defense News. The contract includes four months training in France for some 400 Egyptian sailors.

Meanwhile, Egypt has expressed interest in acquiring other military hardware from Europe. AIN Online reports that as of 1 October, negotiations were at an advanced stage between France, NHIndustries and Egypt for the sale of a significant number of NH90 helicopters. Egypt will need to acquire medium helicopters like the NH90 to operate on its newly acquired Fremm frigates, Gowind corvettes and Mistral landing ships. An industry source told AIN that the discussions “are not for just a couple of helicopters.”

The helicopter Egypt would get would be the NH90 NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter), a type already in service with the French Navy and which has flown off the Fremm frigate Normandie when it was still scheduled to enter French service.

It appears that Egypt has ordered the A400M Atlas airlifter. Earlier this month the Spanish publication Andalucia Informacion reported Pilar Albiac Murillo, Head of Operations and Transformation at Airbus, as saying that Egypt would like to have the A400M as soon as possible, but did not mention numbers or timeframe or if Egypt would by aircraft off the production line or A400Ms surplus to Spanish requirements.

Egypt’s military is already an Airbus customer, having ordered 24 C295 light transport aircraft.

Apart from potentially acquiring NH90s, it appears Egypt will use Kamov Ka-52 naval helicopters aboard the Mistral class vessels. Last month a defence source told Russian news agency TASS that “An agreement on the supplies of fifty Ka-52 helicopters has been signed. If the Egyptian side finds it necessary, the sea-based version of the helicopters will be supplied.” The Russian Navy had originally planned to operate Ka-52K helicopters aboard the Mistral vessels.

In August the company Research and Production Corporation Precision Systems and Instruments (SPC CPR) said it would supply 50 OES-52 electro-optical sights from 2016-19 to equip Ka-52 helicopters ordered by Egypt.

Other Russian companies have offered to supply equipment to Egypt for use aboard the Mistrals, which were originally destined for Russia but the sale was cancelled because of the Ukraine crisis. The French government agreed to reimburse 950 million euros to Moscow last month due to the cancellation.

The vessels, named Vladivostok and Sevastopol, are built to the same design as the French Navy’s two BPCs, Mistral and Tonnerre.

Egypt last year bought four small Gowind warships, built by Mistral manufacturer DCNS, which is 64 percent owned by the French state and 35 percent by defence group Thales.

It also acquired a French frigate as part of a 5.2 billion euro contract for 24 Rafale warplanes earlier this year, France’s first overseas export of the fighter jet.