Egypt is in advanced negotiations with France for two highly advanced French Mistral class assault-cum-helicopter carrier ships that were originally destined for the Russian Navy. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that this deal, if it goes through, will substantially beef up the regional lineup of the Saudi, Egyptian and Israeli navies. The new vessels would enable it to contest Iranian naval challenges in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and alter the balance of strength between the opposing sides.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have given presidents Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and Francois Hollande pledges to fund the transaction at $800 million per carrier.
The Mistrals will join the missile ships of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel and six Dolphin submarines which, according to foreign sources, are capable of firing nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Their delivery comes at a time of strengthening strategic ties among Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel.
The Egyptian navy stands to own the most advanced warships of any Middle East power. The French vessels may also be used as aircraft carriers, because their decks are designed to carry fighter jets as well as helicopters. The only nations maintaining this type of vessel in the region are outsiders – the US, which deploys a Wasp class helicopter for marines; Russia, the ageing Moskva class copter carrier, and France.
Originally ordered from France by the Russian Navy, the pair of Mistrals was never delivered owing to the sanctions the European Union imposed on Moscow after the Ukraine invasion.
It is a multi-purpose warship, able to accommodate 16 “European Tiger” four-bladed, twin-engined attack helicopters, four large landing craft for dropping 450 marines on shore, 70 armored vehicles, including 14 heavy AMX Leclerc assault tanks.
These figures are flexible. If necessary, the French carriers can handle an expanded complement of 900 marines and 40 tanks. It is also a command ship geared to maintain communications with military forces located anywhere in the world. It also carries a 69-bed field hospital. The Mistral has a maximum speed of 18 knots and maximum range of 20,000 miles.