High Seas Strategies – Egypt – Al-Ahram Weekly
The Navy has kept pace with the overall progress of the Egyptian Armed Forces and abreast of international naval developments. Before learning that it had its vast offshore gas reserves, the Egyptian navy was primarily concerned with the security of conventional coasts.
In the wake of a series of maritime border agreements in the eastern Mediterranean which followed the discovery of the vast reserves of natural gas, and the emergence of national and regional geopolitical and security challenges, it became necessary to equip the navy to perform on the high seas, and Egypt now has one of the largest, most modern and powerful navies in the world.
The navy is responsible for ensuring maritime security over 74,000 square miles in the Mediterranean and 40,000 square miles in the Red Sea, including access to the Suez Canal, one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.
Al-Ahram Weekly was able to observe 24 hours of Egyptian naval life, accompanied by the naval commander, Vice-Admiral Ahmed Khaled Hassan Said, aboard the Egyptian Mistral-class helicopter carrier, Gamal Abdel Nasser. The occasion was the 54th anniversary of the Egyptian Navy, celebrated on October 21.
It was on the day, in 1967, that the Egyptian navy sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat after entering Egyptian territorial waters, a milestone in the war of attrition that followed the military defeat of June 1967. The sinking of Eilat turned the international naval battle strategy upside down by showing that a large warship could be carried away by small military ships.
The day of the weekly on Gamal Abdel-Nasser began at the Ras Al-Tin naval base in Alexandria, as the Mistral left to receive three home formations that had just completed exercises with the Greek, US and Spanish navies . The participating fleets carried out a series of combat tasks designed to strengthen maritime security procedures in Mediterranean and Red Sea theaters, including the identification and assessment of surface and aerial threats. The exercises also aimed to improve the interoperability of joint forces to respond to conventional and unconventional threats to international shipping and the flow of global trade.
Vice-Admiral Ahmed Khaled explained that these activities illustrate the level of cooperation with the world’s major navies and reflect the dynamism of the Egyptian navy which is better equipped than ever to safeguard Egypt’s vital interests at sea.
Egypt now has five naval bases, equipped to accommodate all types of ships, meeting the needs of the northern and southern fleets and supporting their operations in all strategic directions. Egypt has also rehabilitated the infrastructure of its maritime defense industries, making it possible to manufacture sophisticated equipment such as the Go-wind class corvette in partnership with the French naval group. Other technology transfer projects include the joint manufacture with Germany of the Meko-200 frigate. Egypt also manufactures smaller patrol boats and other equipment in what the Egyptian navy commander described as the three “strongholds” of the defense naval industry – the naval forces shipyard, the Egyptian company of repair and construction of ships and the Alexandria Naval Company.
Khaled stressed that the Egyptian naval defense industry makes a vital contribution to national development, saying that it is impossible to draw a line between naval strategy and planning and national political, economic and development goals.
In terms of military operations, he referred to the participation of the Egyptian navy in Operation Restore Hope in Yemen, explaining that maritime security is a multifaceted concept that begins with the freedom of navigation and the fight against the threats posed. through piracy, terrorism, drug trafficking, arms smuggling and other forms of organized crime. The evolving nature of threats has necessitated changes in the definition of maritime security, which traditionally referred to a country’s ability to protect its coastline and maritime borders. The scope of security has now broadened to include the ability to ensure the security of shipping lanes of strategic importance to world trade and the transportation of petroleum and other essential goods. For Egypt, it is a question of securing the vital artery which extends from Bab Al-Mandeb via the Red Sea to the northern entrance of the Suez Canal.
The navy works closely with other branches of the Egyptian armed forces to defend strategic, tactical and logistical assets in the area of Egyptian national security. He played an important role in the global Operation Sinai counterterrorism campaign, isolating the operational theater from the sea, preventing the escape of terrorist elements and cutting off the supply of terrorists in Sinai.
In addition to helping secure the northeastern border, the navy has stepped up its boarding and search for suspicious craft in Egyptian territorial waters. The Navy’s special forces unit is tracking suspicious targets near the shore along the northern Sinai coast.
According to Khaled, the Navy is also involved in maritime border demarcation processes, employing specialist technicians with expertise in the complex technical aspects of border demarcation and trained in the latest software applications.
The naval commander spoke about the training of naval personnel, in general, and the facilities available for training. After a solid training at the Naval Academy, officers have the opportunity to continue their education and training in the best naval academies in the world. Volunteers and NCOs are assigned to naval schools or advanced training centers, depending on their abilities and skills. At some of these institutes, candidates receive education and training in non-combat operations, including technical support, materiel maintenance, repairs, and all other services necessary to keep the navy afloat. In general, said Khaled, the navy is committed to taking a modern scientific approach and engaging the most knowledgeable military experts in various specializations to keep up with the evolution of international naval defense systems.
* A version of this article is published in the October 28, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly