France found a new customer for its two- Mistral-class helicopter carriers, which were initially built for Russia. According to Sputnik News, the French government is now selling those ships to Egypt.

Russia offers to equip Egypt's Mistral Ships with control systems
Source: Pixabay

Egypt secured a deal for the resale of the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers with the assistance of French President Francois Hollande. France is expected to deliver the warships in March 2016 after the training of Egyptian crews, according to French Media.

In 2011, Russia signed a $1.3 billion contract to purchase two Mistral-class helicopter ships from France. However, the French government faced pressure to cancel the deal after Russian government’s annexation of Crimea. France delayed the delivery of the ships last year, and eventually decided to terminate the deal in August.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande said their governments reached a “mutually acceptable agreement.” Russia received $1 billion in compensation for the unfulfilled deal.

George Antsev, the director general and chief designer of Morinformsystem-Agat said the state-owned naval technology company has been tasked to equip Egypt’s Mistral-class helicopter ships According to him, they will outfit the ships with combat information and control systems, radar, and helicopter landing systems.

Antsev added that Morinformsystem-Agat was open for offers. According to him, they are responsible for satisfying the needs of any nation with diplomatic relations and agreement on military-technical cooperation with Russia. He made the statement during the 2015 Innovation Day of the Ministry of Defense Expo.

Furthermore, Antsev said, they can equip the French helicopter carriers with compatible systems for Egypt if it wants to operate Russian choppers.

Morinformsystem-Agat manufactures computer-aided and combats management systems for the Russia’s submarines and surface ships. It also produces fire controls systems for all types of ship-mounted weapons. It is the umbrella organization for the country’s shipbuilding industry.

Russia to remove radio-electronic systems from Mistral ships

A separate report indicated that Russia and France will sign the final documents in early November regarding the removal of radio-electronic systems from the Mistral-class helicopter ships.

According to Russia, it needs to remove some Russian-developed system blocks and programs from the ships after the cancelation of the deal in August.

A military-technical source told RIA Novosti, The [dismantling] works should be completed at the end of October. The final documents on [the removal of] radio-electronic systems of communication and control systems are expected to be signed within the first 10 days of November.”

Mistral carriers useless for Egypt

Last month, researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) offered contradicting assessments regarding Egypt’s agreement to purchase the Mistral-class carriers from France.

Some of the researchers said the warships would be useful for Egypt to fight Islamists, while others are saying it is useless, and it’s just a way for Paris to save itself from embarrassment for breaching its contract with Russia.

Alexey Fenenko, a leading research fellow at the RAS Institute of International Security Studies, pointed out that Egypt is not engaged in any military conflict to satisfy its decision to buy the Mistral-class helicopter carriers.

He said, “Cairo does not need ships of this class, Egypt has no one to fight with using them. Egypt does not have an enemy that would justify the purchase of ships of this class.” He pointed out that Mistral ships are intended for major operations involving airborne troops, but Egypt has nowhere to conduct such operations.

Fenenko explained, “Where can Egypt conduct it [such an operation]? In Libya? The two countries share a land border. In Israel? The relations they have at the moment are not bad, and Israel has a total air advantage not only in terms of the number of aircraft but also pilot training. In Syria, ships of this class are not needed for conducting large-scale operations,” Fenenko explained.

He added that Egypt does not have coastline or port services to maintain the Mistral ships properly. According to him, the warships “need specific maintenance by ships of other classes at sea and preferably air cover. It is a very expensive instrument.”

On the other hand, Boris Dolgov, Senior Researcher at the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies commented that the Mistral ships could be useful for Egypt to fight radical Islamic organizations on the Sinai Peninsula.

According yo Dolgov, “Egypt is currently facing a direct military threat from radical Islamism. We know that the so-called Sinai Islamic State [“Sinai Province” or “Wilayat Sinai” militant group] is active on the Sinai Peninsula and that terrorist attacks are being carried out on the territory of Egypt.”

He explained that Egypt could use the helicopters to carry out attacks against ISIL-affiliated Sinai Province or other extremist groups. According to him, “They [Mistral ships] are mobile and can quickly get to any area where the army needs support to conduct autonomous operations with the use of helicopters and Marines.”