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The arms deal between Egypt and Italy, which has been appearing again and again in the trade magazines for months, seems to be getting closer to being realized. Only questions about the scope remain.

With reference to the Italian news and press agency ANSA, it has now been confirmed that the Italian government intends to sell two FREMM-class frigates to Egypt. An agreement was reached on Sunday, June 7, 2020, after a lengthy phone call between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, among other things, on this point. The focus of the conversation was the situation in Libya.

Furthermore, the Egyptian and Italian media agree that the agreement includes the delivery of a total of four frigates, twenty multi-purpose vessels and the delivery of 24 Eurofighters, 24 M-346 training aircraft (Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master - an Italian jet trainer) and one Reconnaissance satellites. So far there is no official confirmation.

If it were actually concluded on such a scale, it would be another great sales success for the Italian defense industry in cooperation with the North African country. In April 2019, Cairo ordered twenty AW-149 helicopters from Leonardo.

For some time there has been talk of the sale of two Italian FREMM frigates, which Fincantieri is in the final phase of completion. The “Spartaco Schergat” (F 598) and the “Emilio Bianchi” (F 589) were originally intended for the Marina Militare. As the information about their sale was already in circulation before the Covid 19 crisis, the levy is not related to the corona consequences.

At this point in time, nothing is known about the two frigates to be delivered. Not even on the terms of the agreement. It is also currently unclear whether and how the Marina Militare will be compensated. "Emilio Bianchi" (F 589) is the last of ten FREMM (also known as Bergamini class) and the sixth general-purpose ship in this class, which also includes four units specially optimized for underground hunting. It was launched in Genoa in January. It was to be delivered to the Marina Militare in April 2021. The construction number 9 was launched as "Spartaco Schergat" (F 598) in January 2019 - it also belongs to the general purpose category. Their takeover into the Navy was planned for this summer.

The FREMM class is a joint French-Italian project (Frégate Multi Mission - multi-purpose frigate). In Italy, Orizzonte Sistemi Navali (OSN) (51% Fincantieri, 49% Leonardo) is the main contractor, in France Armaris (Naval Group and Thales). Both countries commissioned OCCAR (already in 2005) to manage the FREMM program.

The unit price of an Italian FREMM is given as 765 million euros, that of a French one as 860 million euros. The information about the calculation of all equipment (e.g. weapons and electronics systems) and the development costs are not congruent.


Cairo - Rome and Paris

France gave Egypt a unit of this class in 2015 (the former "Normandy", now "Tahya Misr"). In addition, Paris was able to land in Egypt with two LPH (landing craft helicopter carriers), Rafale fighter planes and corvettes from the Gowind project. Only recently (in May 2020) was the "Luxor", the fourth and last Corvette of the El Fateh class, which goes back to the French type Gowind 2500, completed on the Alexandria Shipyard. It is the third corvette in this class to be built in Egypt.

In connection with the armaments cooperation between Cairo and Paris, which has existed since 2015, the French Naval Group agreed with the Egyptian government in 2018 to found a subsidiary to operate and maintain the Gowind-class corvettes. A contract for the purchase of four Gowind 2500 Corvettes for 1 billion euros (with an option for two more) was signed in 2014. The weapon systems are not included in this total. Separate contracts have been signed for them, bringing the total cost of the program to between 1.5 and 1.7 billion euros. Cairo is said to no longer be interested in the option for building numbers five and six. With the subsidiary "Alexandria Naval for Maintenance and Industry (ANMI)", the French Naval Group has strengthened its presence in the country on the Nile.

France had sought the Egyptian frigate request - even at the risk of a high risk with regard to the French-Italian industrial cooperation between Naval Group and Fincantieri that has been underway since 2017. But since President Emmanuel Macron's visit to the Nile at the end of January 2019, alienation seems to have taken place. Rome may now benefit from this. It can be assumed that a transalpine vote has taken place. Because the consolidation within the European framework is the declared goal of the two groups. Guiseppe Bono, CEO of Fincantieri during a webinar on restarting the defense industry following Covid-19 on June 8: “The policy we have followed is the consolidation of European industry. We will have a common European defense and, like in Italy, we have to concentrate our strengths and investments where we are strong, otherwise we risk financial flows from Europe to other countries. ”

The USA has traditionally been a strong (armaments) partner for Egypt. After the Muslim Brotherhood was disempowered, however, relations deteriorated and the country began to look for alternatives. Cairo also remembered old Russian relationships. Based on SIPRI data, 31 percent of the main weapon systems purchased between 2009 and 2018 come from Russia, including Su-35, Mig-29, KA-52 attack helicopters.

Egypt has agreed to supply four submarines and the construction of four MEKO A-200s with thyssenkrupp Marine Systems.

Hans Uwe Mergener