Egypt is seeking to provide more arms to its army in light of the Turkish threats in the Mediterranean and Libyan territories.
Reports have been circulating since mid-June about Egypt acquiring the Russian Bastion land-based anti-ship missile system to secure its coasts and gas fields in the Mediterranean.
The missile used by the Bastion-P is the P-800 Oniks, a supersonic anti-ship missile with a 200–250 kg (440–550 lb) warhead. They are fired vertically from the launchers using a solid-fuel rocket booster for initial acceleration, then use a liquid-fuel ramjet for sustained cruising at Mach 2.5. The Oniks/Yakhont’s maximum range varies at 120–300 km (75–186 mi; 65–162 nmi) using a low-low or hi-low flight trajectory respectively.
In 2015, Egypt signed contracts with Russia to buy $3.5 billion worth of arms, to be gradually handed over. The contract came in light of the shaky relations between Cairo and Ankara following the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
Egypt is strengthening its naval capabilities in light of the challenges it faces in the Mediterranean, especially after Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, which is close to the ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, reported in mid-June that Turkey plans to establish a naval military base in the Libyan city of Misrata overlooking the Mediterranean.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported June 12 that the major deal includes two Bergamini-class FREMM frigates, in addition to four other frigates that will be built specifically for Egypt.
On June 20, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on the Egyptian army to be ready to carry out any operation in Libya to protect its national security, during his visit to the army forces at a base near the western border, in conjunction with increasing Turkish military action in western Libya.
The Egyptian military readiness and support of the Egyptian navy was not limited to armament; the Egyptian navy carried out a joint naval training with the Spanish navy in the Red Sea and Mediterranean on June 18, in response to Turkey conducting a training for its navy and air forces in the Mediterranean on June 12,
Another Egyptian-Spanish naval training took place on June 25 in the Red Sea. Egyptian military spokesman Col. Tamer al-Rifai said that the training “is one of the specific combat exercises that contribute to achieving cooperation between the marine formations to confront threats and hostilities.”
Meanwhile, Israel has expressed its concerns about Egypt boosting the capabilities of its navy, as Israeli media reported, most notably Israel Defense magazine that published an article in May, saying, “The Egyptian navy is improving at a secret and rapid pace,” explaining that the Israeli navy is not willing to reveal the action it will take to deal with this development.
Maj. Gen. Nasr Salem, military expert and adviser at the Nasser Higher Military Academy, told Al-Monitor, “The Egyptian army follows a policy of deterrence, which depends on the principle of preparing for war, even if it does not want to fight — that is, equip itself with force, arm and display its strength in joint exercises until its enemies retreat.”
He added, “The Egyptian navy is ranked globally in terms of strength, armament and personnel, and it is mandated to protect Egypt’s wealth in the Mediterranean and Red Sea and protect gas exploration projects.”
Salem noted, “The Egyptian navy has strengthened itself in order to meet the challenges Egypt faces within the Mediterranean, namely the threats by hostile countries.”
He explained that “there is no good reason for any country to be disturbed by strengthening and arming the Egyptian navy because the Egyptian creed is defense and not attack.”
Salem expects that the Egyptian navy’s ranking would improve during the next year due to its increased armament and major arms deals.
He added, “Such challenges were clear after the Turkish aggression against Libya and the explicit threat to the Egyptian borders, so the state decided to support the army — especially the navy — with weapons and training.”
Kadwani noted that Egypt’s military strength guarantees the stability of the region as a whole and protects the Arab countries from Turkish expansionist ambitions, explaining that Egypt — under Sisi’s reign — relied on a policy of diversifying arms sources so that it would have the ability and freedom to arm the Egyptian army.
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