You may remember that President Sarkozy made a decision to build Mistral amphibious ships for Putin’s Russia.
But after some serious rethinking, that sale was voided and a new customer sought.
Eventually, the customer for the two ships which had been built was Egypt.
And if you fast forward to 2019, you find the Egyptians exercising their new ship in a Mediterranean friendship exercise which had Turkey in mind.
According to a December 20, 2019 article by Hagar Hosny and published by AL-Monitor:
Egyptian naval forces conducted military drills Dec. 11 against the backdrop of the Nov. 28 maritime border and security agreementsigned by Turkey and the internationally recognized Tripoli-based Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.
The agreement providesfor the expansion of security and military cooperation between the two sides and was condemned by Greece and Egypt.
In a Dec. 11 statement, the Egyptian army said these military exercises come in implementation of an Egyptian military strategy aimed at developing its capabilities in the face of the challenges and risks witnessed in the region. The statement added that the military activities included the launch of a submarine anti-ship Harpoon missile with a range of more than 130 kilometers (81 miles). This is in addition to the combat activities of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, a helicopter carrier, in the Mediterranean.
During the exercise, the Egyptian forces conducted “Friendship Bridge 2019” in the Mediterranean Sea using a task force which included the ENS Gamal Abdel Nasser (L1010), a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) of the French Mistral class, as well as Perry-class frigates, missile boats (Soliman Ezzat), Class-209 submarine, a number of anti-submarine units and special forces.
According to a January 7, 2020, Naval Recognition article:
This naval military exercise also included different scenarios of amphibious operations showcasing the capabilities of Egypt’s general command in supervising, commanding and controlling this type of complex maneuvers.
For the first time, Egyptian Naval Forces used modern attack helicopters including the Russian-made Kamov Ka-52 and the American-made AH-64D/E Apache that took off from the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship Gamal Abdel Nasser (L1010).
ENS Gamal Abdel Nasser (L1010) is an Egyptian Navy amphibious assault ship of the French-designed Mistral-class which is also used as a helicopter carrier by the Egyptian Navy. Egypt is the first and only country in Africa and the Middle East to have that type of combat ship.
The exercise highlighted the evolving role of amphibious ships away from simply being Greyhound buses moving troops from port to embarkation point, to being part of sea control and expeditionary strike operations.
The Egyptians understand this point and have been working with the Russians to purchase Kamov Ka-52K naval attack helicopters for Anwar el-Sadat, and they see the AH-64D as a gap filler until they get a marinized helicopter.
The helicopters onboard the Egyptian Mistral class are land-based operating helicopters flying from the ship rather than marinized helicopters part of the work flow of the ship. In the first case, helicopters optimized for land operations certainly can fly to and from an amphibious ship operating as an offshore operating base; they are not optimized for at sea operations with the ship as part of a fast moving task force.
In an article by Tyler Rogoway written at the time of the initial acquisition by Egypt of the French ships, the author highlights why Egypt was buying the ships.
“Egypt has been engaged in a deepening counter-terror fight against extremist elements, namely those aligned with ISIS. Geographically speaking, threats are emanating primarily from around the Sinai Peninsula, which Egypt worries could one day endanger the Suez Canal, and from the western border with Libya, which is embroiled in a full-on civil war and teaming with Islamic militants…..
“These powerful ships could be used as seabases of sorts, parking them off the coast of trouble spots on the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea, but that would signal a massive expeditionary shift in Egypt’s foreign policy.”
The vides below highlight the exercise:
The featured photo shows Russian-made Kamov Ka-52K and American-made AH-64E Apache helicopters prepare to take off from ENS Gamal Abdel Nasser Mistral-class amphibious assault ship during naval exercise Friendship Bridge 2019 (Picture source: Egyptian MoD).