NANTES, France (Reuters) – Egypt took delivery of a second French Mistral helicopter carrier on Friday, part of a $1 billion deal signed last year.
Egypt took over the ship at a ceremony in the Atlantic coast port of Saint-Nazaire. It was the second of two France agreed last year to sell to Egypt.
The two ships were originally built for sale to Russia, but that sale was cancelled after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“It has been a very complicated, uncertain period to manage, but thanks to the French government’s support, we were able to find a navy that needed it,” a spokesman for the state-backed shipbuilder DCNS told Reuters.
The French naval contractor had to strip out all the ship’s information systems and instructions written in Cyrillic script and replace them with Arabic and English lettering.
The “Anwar El-Sadat” will sail from Saint-Nazaire early next week for joint exercises with the French navy before setting off for Alexandria.
The Mistral is known as the “Swiss army knife” of the French navy for its versatility. Capable of carrying vessels and tanks, the will serve as command centres for the Egyptian fleet.
Cairo has tried to boost its military power in the face of a two-year insurgency in northern Sinai and fears that civil war in neighbouring Libya could spill over.
Egypt has also ordered four corvettes, 100-metres long, that will be built in two years, and negotiations are under way to order two more, the spokesman for DCNS told Reuters.
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(Reporting by Guillaume Frouin,; writing by Maya Nikolaeva, editing by Larry King)