Paris, Cairo ‘close to agreement’ on Rafale, FREMM deal worth 5-6 Billion euros

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The French Navy is expected to operate eight Aquitaine class (FREMM) frigates. The first two - L'Aquitaine and Normandie are seen in this picture taken early 2014 in the Attlantic. Egypt also wants two such frigates for its modernized navy.
The French Navy is expected to operate eight Aquitaine class (FREMM) frigates. The first two – L’Aquitaine and Normandie are seen in this picture taken early 2014 in the Atlantic. Egypt considers buying two such frigates for 1.8 billion Euros as part of its naval modernization plan.

France and Egypt are ‘close to agreement’ on a large scale arms deal that could cost 5-6 billion Euros and include naval vessels and fighter aircraft, La Tribune reports.

The French proposal includes one or two FREMM multi-mission frigates worth 1.8 billion euros ($2.07 billion), to be built by DCNS, and 20 Rafale combat aircraft from Dassault, worth 3.6 billion euros ($4.15 billion). Both platforms will be armed with missile systems manufactured by MBDA. On February 12  the French President confirmed Egypt is about to order a single FREMM vessel along with 24 Rafale fighter jets.

The CEOs of these companies visited Cairo this week to promote the deal. This visit was the latest stage in the dialog between the two countries, which also included the visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Paris in November 2014, followed by a high level Egyptian delegation that discussed the deal for 10 days in December. A French delegation also travelled to Cairo last week, to discuss financial aspects of the project.

While Rafale has yet to strike its first export contract, FREMM, as a multi-national program has been more successful in this realm, providing vessels for three navies. If selected, Egypt would be the fourth FREMM operator after Italy, France and Morocco. Egypt intends to make the FREMM frigate the flagship of the Egyptian Navy and wants to acquire the two frigates as quickly as possible. In consequence, France is ready to deliver vessels currently on order for the French Navy, if the deal is signed soon. Egypt wants to have at least one ship for the planned inauguration ceremony of the expanded Suez Canal planned for 2015.

The Egyptian interest in the FREMM follows the acquisition of four Gowind 2500 corvettes for about one billion euros. The lead corvette will be delivered from France, while the remaining three will be built in Egypt.

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[/nonmember][ismember]The European Multi Purpose Frigate, (Frégate européenne multi-mission FREMM) program was developed as a Franco-Italian joint program, designing a common platform to equip the Italian and French navies. The French Aquitaine Class and Italian Bergamini Class share the same platform with different configurations designed for land attack, anti-submarine warfare and air defense. The Moroccan Navy has received one FREMM configured for ASW.

Egypt currently operates six ex-US Navy frigates (Oliver Hazard Perry and Knox classes) along with four corvettes of Chinese (Type 053) and Spanish (Descubierta) classes. Four Ambassador IV class missile boats were also delivered from the USA in 2014. Egypt has also placed orders for four German built U-209 submarines built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems’ HDW. The submarines are scheduled for delivery in 2016.[/ismember]

RAFAEL and Mirage 2000 fighter jets operating with the French Air Force and Navy are currently employed with laser designation pods and DAMOCLES targeting pods, both produced by Thales. The company is now contracted to develop the next generation targeting pod for these aircraft. Photo: French Air Force
Dassault has delivered over 130 Rafale fighter jets to the French Air Force and Navy. Egypt considers buying 20 such aircraft for 3.6 billion Euros. Photo: French Air Force

The Rafale could be an alternative to Russian or Chinese aircraft the Egyptian Air Force needs to modernize its forces, which currently rely almost exclusively on the Lockheed Martin F-16 supplied by the USA. The latest acquisition of 20 F-16 Block 50/52 aircraft was approved in 2010, but was only partly delivered due a US embargo on weapons delivery to Egypt, which was imposed after the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, that lead to the fall of president Moubarak in 2011 and the military coup in 2013 that brought general Sisi to power. Although Washington has since approved the delivery of some of the embargoed weapons, Cairo has not been trusting Washington and is seeking reliable alternative sources.

Rafale seems to be a viable alternative, as Dassault is seeking orders to beef up its production line, which currently produces only one aircraft per month, stretching production of the remaining 43 aircraft ordered for the French Air Force and Navy until 2018, as the F3R upgrades will be introduced.

Update: The deal was officially confirmed on February 12 by French President Francois Hollande confirmed the conclusion of the first contract of sale of 24 Rafale fighter aircraft to Egypt, which will be signed on February 16, the Elysee Palace said in a statement Thursday.

[ismember]Cairo was reportedly interested in the Russian MiG-35, but that aircraft has not been ordered yet even by the Russian Government, as production is due begin not earlier than 2016. Cairo is less likely to opt for the MiG-29M/M2 proposed by Moscow the as a gap filler.

Missiles are also part of the Russian proposed US$3.5 billion package. Earlier in 2014 it was reported that the multi-billion arms deal discussed between Moscow and Cairo will also include land based anti-ship (coastal defense) systems (possibly Bastion), as well as air defense systems. In November 2014, the Russian news agency TASS reported that Egypt could soon become the second customer for the latest S-300VM air defense system, after Venezuela.

The S-300VM, a tracked version of the S-300 system is also known as ‘Antei-2500’. Its NATO code name is SA-23 ‘Gladiator’ or ‘Giant’. Previous reports also revealed Russia had offered Egypt the S-400 ‘Triumf’, as part of a long-term arms package that also included fighter jets. In he past Egypt has based most of its air defense systems on Russian equipment, but, since its turn to the US as its main arms supplier, Cairo relied on Patriot and Hawk missiles for these missions.

The Bastion land-based anti-ship missile system comprises Yakhont supersonic anti-ship missiles launched from coastal positions. The system was delivered to Syria and has since been transferred to Lebanon, where the Iranian backed Hezbollah maintains it. The Bastion will extend the range of Russian SS-C2B Samlet (land based version of the Styx) and Otomat (Italian) anti-ship missiles currently deployed with Egypt’s coastal defense forces, along with coastal artillery guns of different calibers.[/ismember]