Egypt to buy French helicopter carriers built for Russia


Mistral-class

Egypt has reportedly agreed to purchase two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, which France had built for Russia, in a €950m ($1bn) deal.

Last month, France and Russia terminated a €1.2bn ($1.3bn) contract for these carriers over the Ukraine crisis.

According to a French defence ministry source, the deal also includes training for 400 Egyptian Navy personnel and delivery of the warships are expected to be in March next year.

French President Francois Hollande was quoted by AFP news agency as saying: "It was my preferred buyer because we already have military cooperation with Egypt.

"Egypt plays an important role in the Middle East and wants to move towards a democratic transition, which is not easy, and we should support their efforts."

Previously, Western allies argued that delivery of the French vessels would significantly strengthen Russia's capability to attack and hold coastlines.

The first carrier, Vladivostok, was scheduled to join the Russian Navy by the end of 2014, followed by Sevastopol this year.

As per the termination agreement, France is liable to reimburse the money that was already paid for the vessels and also return Russian equipment that had been installed on the vessels.

In addition, a Russian military source was quoted by Sputnik News as saying: "Egypt is a friendly state for Russia, so if Paris and Cairo did reach an agreement on the acquisition of these ships, Moscow is unlikely to voice any opposition to this agreement."

"It was my preferred buyer because we already have military cooperation with Egypt."

The Mistral-class warship, which is capable of cruising at a maximum speed of 19k, features six helicopter landing zones and will be capable of carrying up to 16 heavy helicopters in addition to tanks and approximately 500 troops.

The helicopter carrier incorporates an MRR-3D NG surveillance radar and a high-performance communications suite to support humanitarian operations and several other missions.

In June, Russia and Egypt conducted the first joint naval exercise as part of efforts to strengthen military co-operation between the countries.

Known as Friendship Bridge 2015, the eight-day exercise covered supply and communications at sea, search operations, as well as all forms of defence at sea and firing exercises.


Image: The Mistral-class warship features six helicopter landing zones. Photo: courtesy of Antoine Morcello / Net Marine.