One of France’s and Egypt’s strongest points of cooperation, after July 2013, is the arms deal between them. This represents a political approval of the new regime, which came after the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. The cooperation have reached a peak in the last years, as Egypt is tending to diversify its sources of arms support, especially after tense relations with official US bodies.
During the current visit, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi held meetings with military officials and company heads to discuss the cooperation between the two sides. He met with French Defence Minister Florence Parley on Monday and discussed military cooperation. Parley praised Egypt’s efforts in counter-terrorism, while asserting Frances support for Egypt in its fight against militancy.
Al-Sisi also met DCNS naval group CEO Hervé Guillou. DCNS has supplied Egypt with the corvettes. Guillou said that Egypt is the second biggest consumer of the company’s products after the French navy.
The relations between the two countries saw a strong improvement since the election of Al-Sisi, as a number of significant arms deals were sealed in the past years, after the US was nearly exclusively supplying Egypt with arms in former years.
The Egyptian armed forces are equipped with an array of French military hardware, including Mirage and Alphajet fighter planes, Gazelle helicopters, and communication equipment. France also offers training at its military academies to several Egyptian officers every year.
The latest wider defence deal between Egypt and France, which is worth all-in-all €5.2bn, includes the purchase of 24 Rafale fighter jets. The deal is financed with the help of a €3.2bn loan by the French government, which was already in place for the last arms deal between the two countries and which was extended to the new one, after France sold four Gowind corvettes to Egypt in 2014.
The Gowind 255 corvette, chosen by the Egyptian navy, is a first-rank armed vessel with a displacement of 2,500 tonnes, equipped with a multi-mission combat system. Apart from air-defence, land-strike, and ship-to-ship missiles, Gowind class warships also have the capability to launch unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones.
Egypt is only the second foreign customer to order this class of corvette from the DCNS naval group, after the Royal Malaysian Navy.
In addition to this type of vessel, Egypt received two Mistral warships, named after presidents Anwar Al-Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser. The warships were assigned to secure gas fields around the Mediterranean, as well as being on call if Gulf countries ask Egypt for aid. On board the aircraft are 10 armed personnel stationed in strategic areas around the vessel for protection.
The French deals comes after the French and Egyptian navies participated in several joint naval manoeuvres codenamed “Cleopatra” near the southern French port. The Egyptian navy and air force are studying several offers for helicopters to use on Al-Sadat warship.
Last week, Egypt received the first of four Gowind corvettes, named Al-Fateh, after reaching Egyptian waters coming French port of Lorient.
Egypt ranked first among developing nations for importing arms in 2015, bringing in weaponry that amounted to $5.3bn, according to a new US congressional report titled “Conventional arms transfers to developing nations, 2008-2015”. In that same list, Egypt is followed by Iraq and Saudi Arabia, with $5bn and $4.5bn respectively.
Last April, the Egyptian navy received the first Type-209/1400 submarine. The ship is supplied by German shipbuilding company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft to Egypt. It can sail up to 11,000 nautical miles and has a maximum speed of 21 knots. It also has the ability to launch missiles and torpedoes and is reportedly equipped with the latest navigation and communication systems that can protect the country’s coasts and waters. The deal included supplying four submarines constructed by the company from the German city of Kiel, as assistance to Egypt’s navy.