The Egyptian Navy has received the second FREMM frigate, ENS Bernees, from Italy. The vessel arrived in Alexandria on 14 April.
ENS Bernees was formerly the Emilio Bianchi before being acquired by the Egyptian Navy. The first vessel, ENS Al Galala (ex Spartaco Schergat), arrived in Alexandria on 31 December.
The Egyptian Ministry of Defence said the ENS Bernees’s reception ceremony was attended by a number of former Egyptian Navy leaders, the Italian Military Attachment in Cairo, and a number of students of military colleges and Alexandria University.
The Ministry added that the vessel will help Egypt secure its borders, support and protect land forces along the coast during offensive and defensive operations, and secure natural resources in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
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.
The Italian L’Espresso weekly news magazine reported on 28 March that Fincantieri had submitted a request to export two more FREMMs to Egypt, which it said was evidence that Cairo wants to exercise an option in its contract for additional vessels. L’Espresso reported that these would be delivered in 2025, further delaying the delivery of the replacements for the Italian Navy.
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.
Egypt previously received the French FREMM frigate Normandie (Tahya Misr) from France in 2015, optimised for anti-submarine warfare.