Egypt is a poor, overpopulated country with a moribund economy that cannot even feed all of its citizens. That said, and in a sign of the insanity of the times, the governments of Egypt and France announced on Wednesday that the nearly-broke Middle Eastern nation had agreed to buy two Mistral class helicopter carriers worth at least $1.5 billion. The warships had originally been built for Russia, but the sale was cancelled due to Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.
France announced earlier that it had agreed to refund the around $1 billion already paid by Russia for work on the ships. However, this week’s announcement did not specify how much Egypt agreed to pay, but claimed it was not losing money on the deal.
More on sale of Mistral helicopter carriers to Egypt
Each Mistral helicopter carrier is capable of transporting up to 16 helicopter gunships, 700 troops and 50 armored vehicles.
Even after the sanctions related to Russia’s misadventures in Ukraine kicked in last year, France continued building the warships to Russia’s spec (including Cyrillic signage throughout the vessels) until the deal was finally canceled earlier this year. Of note, the sale of the Mistral class carriers would have been the largest arms purchase by Russia from a NATO country.
Military analysts also point out that Egypt also bought 24 high-end Rafale fighter jets from France back in February $6 billion, as it wanted to beef up its capabilities to fight against the Islamic State jihadists.
Also of note, Egypt has been trying to suppress a radical insurgency in the northern Sinai region for a number of years. The fundamentalist Islamic insurgency rose up again after the Egyptian military removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 during huge protests against his rule, and then undertook a massive crack down on Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Russia says will build its own helicopter carriers
As reported by ValueWalk in July, Russia has plans to go ahead and build its own helicopter carriers now that the Mistral deal has fallen through.
Back in October 2014, Russian Adm. Victor Bursuk said that Russia is “not dependent on France in any way” and that a new program to build helicopter carriers “will certainly be implemented.”
Another senior Russian military official, Oleg Bochkaryov, noted: “We have these types of ships planned.”
As far as the design of the new carriers, Vladimir Pepelyayev, the chief of naval shipbuilding division at the Krylov State Research Center, commented that the Russian design of the warships “suits the tactics of using our forces, our mentality and our approaches to amphibious operations.”
“The task of our ships is to provide assistance to frontline troops in defending our borders, in other words, landing assault groups in the rear of advancing enemy forces. Naturally, they are designed differently,” he continued.
Pepelyayev anticipates that the helicopter carriers will cost around $550 million each to build.
“The conceptual design will take about twelve months to accomplish and the technical project and design documentation, another year or two. Building the ship will require another three years,” he went on to note.
Naval experts have suggested a similar timeline for construction of the Russian carrier, with some claiming the first ship of the new class could be rolled out by 2020.