Egypt has received the first of four Ambassador III class fast missile craft (FMC) from the United States, with the remaining three to be delivered late this year and next year.
The S Ezzat, first of class, was yesterday transferred to the Egyptian Navy at a ceremony in Pensacola, Florida, where the US has an international student programme, reports Defense News. The vessel, launched in October 2011, is named after Admiral Solilman Ezzat who was Commander in Chie of the Egyptian Navy from 1953 to 1967.
“The ship’s Egyptian officers have been training since July under US Navy instruction at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, where the transfer took place,” said Commander Bill Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman.
Rear Admiral Mohamed Abd El Aziz of the Egyptian Navy said during the S Ezzat’s naming ceremony in 2011 that the vessels would be used for maritime security, particularly combating the problems of illegal immigration and smuggling. They are ideally suited for protecting the Suez Canal region. Egypt has over 2 000 km of coastline in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea to protect, and also needs to enforce a blockade of the Gaza strip.
The second vessel, F Zekry, is almost complete, and will be delivered in December while the remaining two craft, the M Fahmy and A Gad, are due for delivery next year.
Each of the 62 metre, 700 ton craft carry an OTO Melara 76 mm super rapid gun, eight Harpoon block II missiles, Mk 49 Rolling Airframe Missiles, Block 1B Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs) and two M60 machineguns.
Powered by three MTU diesels, they have a top speed of 41 knots and with a crew of 38 they can operate at sea for up to eight days.
A construction contract for the four vessels was issued to VT Halther Marine in September 2008 and is worth an estimated $800 million.
The fast missile craft have escaped the freeze of military aid and equipment deliveries to Egypt following the Egyptian military’s overthrow of elected President Mohamed Mursi in July. The aid cuts stopped the delivery of four F-16 fighters, ten Apache helicopters, M1 Abrams tank kits, Harpoon anti-ship missiles as well as $260 million in cash (Egypt receives $1.3 billion in military aid every year).
Some aid continues, as the US uses it as a leveraging tool. For instance, aid continues to flow regarding equipment used for counterterrorism and civil security operations, as well as for spares and training.