The French Navy is supportive of tentative plans to sell its FREMM frigate Normandie to Egypt at short notice, with the vessel to be delivered before August.
The vessel, built by DCNS, is currently undergoing sea trials. French Navy chief Admiral Bernard Rogel said earlier this week that Normandie could be handed over to Egypt later this year if its transfer does not affect French Navy operations.
“Just for now it’s not a done deal,” Rogel said. “Everyone is talking about it, so it’s no secret that today we are working on a request from Egypt, the purchase of a multimission frigate with a very quick delivery, for the summer 2015,” he told the French defence journalists association.
In order for this to happen, the French Navy would have to extend the life of one of the F70 anti-submarine frigates due to be replaced by the FREMMs (this would be the Motcalm, due to be decommissioned this year), and DCNS would have to deliver six FREMMs by 2018.
“There should not be an overall impact on the Navy, which is already very extended,” Rogel said. “The shipbuilder must be able to guarantee we will have four FREMM frigates by 2016 and six FREMM frigates by 2018. I have been seriously told that could be done. With those conditions, the Normandie can be sold,” he said.
The speeded up schedule necessitated by a sale to Egypt goes against the French government’s plans of slowing down FREMM deliveries in order to feel less of a financial impact, Defense News reports.
The French ministry of defence is facing a 2.2 billion euro budget shortfall this year, and as a result is considering selling and leasing back up to six Airbus A400M Atlas transport aircraft and two or three FREMM frigates. The money from the sales would go to the defence budget while the defence ministry would lease back the equipment from state-owned companies. France’s defence procurement budget faces a 5.5 billion euro shortfall between 2014 and 2019.
French defence procurement head Laurent Collet-Billon on Monday said that France plans to later extend the sale and leaseback model to other equipment like C295 transport aircraft and military helicopters.
Egypt is currently negotiating the sale of 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets as well as the FREMM and Mica and Aster 15 missiles from MBDA in a combined deal worth five to six billion euros. A French source on Tuesday said the deal was imminent.
Egypt is keen to acquire the Rafales and FREMM in time for the planned opening of a new waterway for the Suez Canal in August. It also hopes to get the Rafales from French military stocks.
Last year Egypt ordered four DCNS Gowind corvettes worth around 1 billion euros from France, with options for two more.
France has eight FREMM frigates on order plus three options. The first of class, Aquitaine, was commissioned in November 2012 while the third vessel, Provence, was launched in September 2013 with sea trials beginning in September last year. The fourth vessel, Languedoc, is due for delivery in 2016.
The multirole FREMM frigates have been designed for several roles, including anti-air, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare. They feature Herakles multifunction radar, Aster surface-to-air missiles, MdCN cruise missiles, Exocet MM40 anti-ship missiles, MU90 torpedoes and an Otobreda 76 mm gun. Each vessel is 142 metres long, has a beam of 20 metres and displaces 6 000 tonnes.
Although there is accommodation for 145 personnel, the standard complement is 108 including the helicopter crew – the frigate has an aft helicopter hangar and deck able to accommodate medium helicopters like the NH90, EH101 and Cougar.
The FREMM’s hybrid CODLOG (COmbined Diesel eLectric Or Gas) power package combines electric motors for low-speed silent-mode propulsion and a gas turbine for high-speed mechanical propulsion, with a maximum speed in excess of 27 knots. This gives a range of 6 000 nm at 15 knots.