Fremm to Egypt, what will change for Fincantieri and for the Navy

Fremm to Egypt, what will change for Fincantieri and for the Navy

Purposes and scenarios for Fincantieri and the Navy after the government's ok to the sale of two Fremm to Egypt. The analysis of Aurelio Giansiracusa, animator of Ares-Osservatorio Difesa

Following the Council of Ministers last Thursday, the story of the sale of two FREMM frigates Bergamini class to the Egyptian Navy seems to have started positively.

As is known, since 2018 Cairo had shown more than interest in the purchase of the last two units of the aforementioned class, the Spartaco Schergat and Emilio Bianchi, in an advanced state of preparation for the Navy.

These units, together with the four Bergamini and the four Margottini, the FREMM-IT anti-submarine version, were ordered in due course by the Italian Navy to replace the eight Mistral class frigates set up in the 1980s and the four class team patrols Bersagliere, former ex Wolf class frigates, set up in an export version, never delivered to Iraq by Saddam Hussein following the embargo decreed for the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

These 12 units represented the draft horses of the Navy, which, together with the four destroyers and / or area defense units and the aircraft carrier units, formed the skeleton of the Naval Squad until a few years ago.

When the cooperation pacts with France were signed, the Navy, with a view to a numerical reduction of the units in line compensated by a greater degree of combat capacity and high automation as well as greater autonomy, indicated a requirement for 10 units of the type FREMM, of which six (the Bergamini) in GP or General Purpose version, for multirole use and 4 (the Margottini) in ASW or Anti Submarine Warfare version, optimized for the search and neutralization of hostile submarines.

This requirement was followed by the relative construction order of an equal number of frigates at Fincantieri, all set between 2008 and 2015. The first eight units entered service between 2013 and 2019, while Schergat and Bianchi were expected, respectively, this June and next spring.


In theory, not much should change for the Navy because the contract for 10 frigates is always valid and there is no news on a possible renegotiation between the Ministry of Defense and Fincantieri in this regard.

As anticipated by Pietro Batacchi, director of RID , there is talk of an extension of the terms provided for in the contract to allow Fincantieri to adapt the two frigates to Egyptian needs and to plan the construction of two new units to replace the ships just sold.

Surely, the Navy will have to revise the radiation plans of the last Maestrale frigates and the two Gold Medal class destroyers, because it takes at least four years between the setting up, launching, preparation, sea trials and delivery of the new units.

The old Mistral and the two Gold Medals have a reduced war efficiency because their main anti-aircraft missile systems are obsolete and no longer upgradeable (Standard 1MR and Albatros / Aspide) like the rather old anti-ship missiles (the Teseo Mk2), which are also available in ever smaller numbers.

A breath of fresh air, albeit partial, will be provided by the entry into line of the new Multifunctional Offshore Patrol boats whose first specimens (moreover, in the Light version, therefore, with very reduced fighting capacity) are at the tests, or in advanced preparation phase. But it must be clear that these are not Team units because they do not have the appropriate equipment to make them suitable as demanding antisubmarine tasks. At most, these units will serve to save precious hours of navigation to already fatigued and pressurized units to show the flag in distant waters where the air and sea threat is reduced or minimal.


The purchase of these two FREMM-ITs represents a big qualitative leap for the Egyptian Navy which, at the moment, among the major units deploys a FREMM-FR purchased among those under construction for the Marine Nationale, 4 frigates class Oliver H. Perry , contemporary to the Mistral, and two old Knox-class frigates, contemporary to our radiate Lupo.

Obviously, the two FREMM-ITs will take the place of the two old Knox, completely outdated and obsolete.

For the replacement of the four Perry, it seems that Cairo is negotiating with Rome the purchase of two-four FREMM-IT of new construction, together with a vast program (we speak of twenty units) for patrol / corvettes to be carried out mainly in Egypt , as well as Typhoon fighter-bomber, M346 advanced trainers and a satellite with Leonardo leader.

Leaving aside this program and returning to the sale of the two FREMM-ITs, it is clear that for the Egyptian Navy it will be a decided step forward to put two very modern frigates online. It is likely that, before delivery, they will be adapted to the Egyptian and Italian needs, as happened for the FREMM-FR which was sold by the French to the Egyptians without the launchers for cruise missiles from the Naval Scalp attack, the protected communication systems and electronic warfare systems, all extremely valuable systems on which the survival of the ship depends on hostility.

However, even if these units are added to the team, the problem, currently unsolvable, of continuously using them at sea for long periods remains because the Egyptian Navy is lacking in team supplies as well as medium and long range antisubmarine air cover. To partially resolve this problem, the Egyptian Navy has launched a program to build new bases and landings between the Red Sea, Sinai and the Mediterranean coast, including one not too far from the border with Cyrenaica. It is clear that Cairo intends to assume an increasingly influential role in the central-eastern Mediterranean and this ambitious goal inevitably passes through naval growth, with increasing friction primarily with the Turkish Navy increasingly active in the Egyptian area of ​​interest. Furthermore, the Egyptian Navy will have to solve many logistical, training and operational problems because, to the French, American, Spanish, South Korean, British, German, and even Chinese construction units, it will add Italian-built ships set up. and designed for the needs of the Navy. Therefore it is foreseeable that it will not be new bases or landings to change the fate of the Egyptian Navy but the preparation of the personnel, the quality of the command and a rationalization of the programs which, however, is not visible on the horizon.


The implications of the Libyan affair have highlighted all the limits of Italian politics incapable of being able to affect firsthand the former "Fourth Bank", forcing Rome to leave the field open to the aggressive Ankara, boldly returned to Tripolitania after more than a century. President Erdogan launched a heavy military campaign with means, military advisors and Turkmen fighters from Syria which relatively quickly allowed the shaky government of Sarraj to take back part of Tripolitania, to ease the pressure on Tripoli and to threaten the areas under direct control of the Haftar LNA. Obviously, Erdogan has his advantage in this affair; placing Turkey in the center of the Mediterranean with men and bases as well as obtaining oil and gas supplies from the newly found Libyan friend. Rome, for too long an impatient, has gradually witnessed the loss of influence and, at some point, has also "flirted" with the rebel Haftar in the key of rapprochement with the Egyptian positions that Turkey does not want at the doorstep.

Today we are faced with a situation that is nothing short of complex with the Turkish Navy which exercises jointly with the Italian and French Navy while, at the same time, escorting the cargo ships to Libya, removing the ships of the international mission Irini which, theoretically, should block the flow of weapons and supplies to the belligerents.

We try to keep good relationships with everyone ( the Italian-Greek EEZ affair resolved with mutual recognition), we aim to create a new strategic partnership with Egypt but, in fact, the problems at the doorsteps have increased and will increase in short times.

To date, leaving aside the Russian presence returned stable in the Mediterranean to Tartus in Syria, we are witnessing the growth of the Turkish Navy thanks to the launch of several national shipbuilding programs, slowed down only in part by the US decision to block the sale of the F-35B that it would have had to operate from the Anadolu amphibious assault aircraft carrier unit, from the presence of an increasingly powerful Algerian Navy and Air Force and capable of organizing Anti Access / Denial Area (A2 / AD) with ships, submarines, anti-ship missiles and long-range antiaircraft in able to interdict a large area of ​​the south-western Mediterranean and the Egyptian Navy which, having strengthened the Red Sea with new bases by deploying several units, now looks to expansion in the Mediterranean both in the Cypriot area and in the Libyan Sea.

For the Italian Defense the time has come to take note of this situation which has arisen relatively quickly and which, with the United States increasingly absent and sucked in by the Asian crisis with China, must necessarily aim at a decisive strengthening of the sector air and naval space, for the maintenance of technological and operational supremacy now under crisis and under pressure, safeguarding the enormous national interests in the Mediterranean.


Finally, it remains to evaluate the role and the "victory" of Fincantieri in all this complex affair. For the Trieste group, this is another significant success on the international market after the very heavy one achieved in the United States with the victory of the FFG (X) program, managing to enter a market, the Egyptian one, which was reserved to the "partner" Naval Group which, in addition to FREMM FR, sold four Gowind multirole corvettes (partly set up in Alexandria, Egypt) and the two Mistral-class amphibious assault helicopter carrier units, at the time set up for Russia but never delivered following the embargo for the Crimean events.

For Fincantieri the tactical goal was to penetrate the very difficult Egyptian market; the strategic result is to build customer loyalty with a program of construction of other FREMMs and new patrols as a start.

The tactical goal seems to have been achieved; for the strategic one it will be necessary to know the real Egyptian possibilities and the support of the Italian Government for the guarantees in the financing of a program of this scale will also be necessary.
Probably, the Egyptian government will put gas supplies extracted from Zohr (the joint venture with ENI) to partially cover the payment.

Fincantieri, for its part, will have to organize the work well between its yards because between the PPA under construction for the Navy and the units under construction for the Qatar Navy, the plants are currently quite busy. If in addition to the two units that will be set up to compensate for the two sold, two or four new FREMMs will be added, it is very probable that it will be necessary to “mobilize” all the construction sites, considering that in this period the works for the EPCs will also start, corvettes / patrol boats born from the Italian-French collaboration and which also saw Spain and Greece (as well as the interest of other European countries).

Fincantieri is proving more and more leader in the shipbuilding sector also with NAVIRIS, waiting to understand how the STX affair will end and the possible joint venture or even merger with the German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems with which there are negotiations in progress for the submarines division , as well as being increasingly present in the infrastructure sector.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Sat, 13 Jun 2020 08:42:19 +0000.