Fast patrol craft, offshore patrol vessels and corvette-sized warships continue to dominate most naval needs in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, even as political and financial instability concerns grow. Larger and more expensive programs, including frigate or submarine acquisition, remain an elusive goal for many navies.
“Our forecast for new spending on naval platforms in MENA market continues to show steady and substantial growth,” said Amy McDonald, an international naval programs analyst with AMI International.
“However, looking at the region, we’ve seen little movement on most surface combatant and submarine programs since the March DIMDEX show in Doha,” she added. “Most activity has been centered around small patrol craft or coast guard vessels.”
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Algeria together account for nearly 40 percent of the region’s forecasted naval market investment, McDonald noted. Egypt and Israel make up another 20 percent.
Egypt made news Feb. 16 when leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed a reported US $5.9 billion deal in Paris to buy the Normandie, a FREMM frigate recently completed by DCNS for the French Navy, in a major buy that included 24 Rafale fighter jets. The deal marked the first export contract for the Dassault Aviation jet — a mainstay of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle’s air group — and the second overseas sale of a French FREMM.
The frigate Mohammad VI, second of the first group of FREMM frigates, was built under contract for Morocco.
The addition of a new, French-built frigate to Egypt’s Navy, however, will complicate their logistics and training chains. Egypt already operates American, Spanish and Chinese-built frigates along with French, British and US-built fast attack craft. Supporting those older ships also presents opportunities for modernization, training and supply contracts — a situation common throughout the MENA region.
Al-Sisi’s visit to France came just after he hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin for a two-day state visit to Cairo during which the two leaders announced agreements for Russian assistance in nuclear power plant construction, natural gas business and the creation of a Russian industrial zone along the Suez Canal.