by WorldTribune Staff, January 15, 2017
Egypt’s navy has responded to growing threats in the Middle East with the formation of Southern Fleet Command, which is composed of a destroyer, Mistral-class helicopter carrier, missile craft, coastal patrol and special forces units.
Egypt currently has the sixth strongest navy in the world, according to a recent ranking by Global Firepower. The Iranian navy ranks fourth while those of Israel and Turkey rank 36th and 14th.
The Egyptian navy is the only one in the Middle East to possess an aircraft carrier, although the Mistral-class Anwar Sadat cannot accommodate fixed-wing aircraft.
“The Southern Fleet Command, with its new naval formations, offers a powerful shield against anyone who might venture to violate Egyptian territorial waters,” said Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Navy Rear Adm. Ahmed Khaled Hassan Said, adding that such a shield was crucial at a time “when the region is awash with threats and challenges to Egyptian national security.”
In addition to the Mistral-class helicopter carrier and the Russian-made P-32 Molniya-class missile craft, other new additions to the fleet include the Suleiman Ezzat missile craft, the FREMM multi-purpose frigate Tahya Misr, a number of Swift craft as well as the recently acquired Type 209/1400-class submarine.
Gen. Talaat Moussa, Chairman of the National Security Studies Department at the Higher Nasser Military Academy, said the fleet, which was inaugurated on Jan. 5, will “strengthen security and protect the Egyptian state in its regional spheres of security which, in terms of maritime security, extend from the Zagros Mountains in Iran to the Straits of Gibraltar in the western Mediterranean and from the Horn of Africa to the sources of the Nile.”
Southern Fleet Command’s mission “within this sphere is to perform vital tasks that include securing the eastern Egyptian coastline and ensuring the safety and stability of maritime traffic at Bab Al-Mandeb and navigation through the Suez Canal,” Moussa said, adding the task has been made more urgent by “the threats that Iran poses via the Houthi movement, its proxy in Yemen.”
Egypt said it created the new fleet to secure complete control over the theater of naval operations in the Red Sea area, where it has a 1,500 kilometer-long coast along the maritime artery that links Bab Al-Mandeb, the southern gateway between the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, with the entrances to Aqaba and the Suez Canal, gateway to the Mediterranean where Egypt has another 1,000 kilometers of coastline.
The commander of the navy noted that Egypt will also soon receive another French-made Gowind-class corvette after which three more ships of this class, manufactured locally in partnership with France, will be added to the fleet.