Second ex-Italian FREMM frigate ENS Bernees 1003 arrives Egypt

The second of the two Italian-built FREMM frigates (ENS Bernees) bought by Egypt arrived at the naval base in Alexandria on 14 April to join the Egyptian Navy fleet.

Formerly the Emilio Bianchi before being acquired by the Egyptian Navy and being renamed, ENS Bernees was constructed by Italian company Fincantieri.

A video footage released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defence (MoD) shows ENS Bernees (1003) being escorted into the Ras-al-Tin Naval Base several naval vessels including two Mistral LHDs, two FREMM Bergamini-class frigates, two Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, one FREMM Aquitaine-class frigate, two Gowind-class corvettes, three Type-209/1400mod submarines and two Type-033 Romeo-class submarines.

The first of the two, ENS Al-Galala 1002 (ex Spartaco Schergat), arrived in Alexandria on 31 December 2020.

The deal signed last year for both vessels was quite controversial due to Egypt’s human rights record, particularly after an Italian student Giulio Regeni was tortured and murdered in Cairo in 2016.

Last year, Egypt indicated interest in buying two FREMM frigates from Italy, which were in the production line at the time. The deal also involved other military equipment and was worth 1.2 billion Euros.

The FREMM is a class of multi-purpose frigates designed by French Naval Group and Italian Fincantieri for their respective countries. Eighteen FREMM ships (8 for France, 10 for Italy) will be constructed, with the first FREMM delivered in 2012, and the last in 2022.

According to Egypt’s MOD, the vessel will help Egypt secure its borders, support and protect land forces along the coast during offensive and defensive operations, and secure natural resources in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

Italy’s FREMM is being developed in two designs: Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) and General Purpose (armed with DCNS Sylver A-50 Vertical Launching System / VLS).

The General purpose variant of the FREMM warship is armed with a Leonardo 127/64 mm LightWeight (LW) mm gun, a 76/62 mm Super Rapido gun and two 25 mm guns, MBDA SAAM-ESD (Surface Anti-Air Missile – Extended Self-Defence) Air Defence Missile system able to launch the Aster family of surface-to-air missiles.

The estimated unit cost of a FREMM for the Italian Navy is EUR1.2 billion, but Egypt netted each vessels for just EUR990 million, EUR210 million lesser likely because all NATO-standard equipment were removed prior to delivery.

This frigate sale, is believed to be part of a larger contract that includes four more frigates, 20 Falaj class corvettes, 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, 24 M346 jet trainers, and a surveillance satellite.

So far, not much is known about the status of the larger contract, however, Leonardo has announced that it will be supplying 24 AW149 and eight AW189 helicopters to Egypt’s military under an EUR871 million deal. Some of the helicopter will be used aboard Egypt’s Navy ships.

Fincantieri has reportedly started work on the two replacement frigates for the Italian Navy, and has also submitted a request to export two more FREMMs to Egypt, these would be delivered in 2025.

Meanwhile, in 2019 Egypt indicated interest to procure up to six warships from Germany, at least three of which are Meko frigates.

In 2015, Egypt acquired the French anti-submarine warfare FREMM frigate Normandie (renamed Tahya Misr) from France.

Darek Liam

Been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade. Sometimes you see me in the Sahara desert horse riding.

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