Egypt receives the first FREMM frigate from Italy with a cost of $1.3bn

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The first of two FREMM frigates manufactured by Fincantieri Italian shipbuilding group for Egypt, named Al-Galala by the Egyptian Army, arrived Alexandria naval base on December 31. “Al-Galala (The majesty) Frigate, a FREMM Bergamini unit, arrived Alexandria,” said the Egyptian military spokesman on his official account on Twitter.

The military spokesman attached a video displaying the new frigate accompanied by a voiceover talking about the high capabilities of the frigate. According to Naval News, the frigate features the MBDA SAAM-ESD Air Defense Missile system, Leonardo MFRA (Multi-Function Radar Active), Kronos Grand Naval 3D AESA radar and the RASS surface/air surveillance radar all provided by Leonardo Italian company for defense industries.

The frigates are part of an arms deal signed by Egypt and Itlay in last June to deliver two FREMM Bergamini frigates to Egypt for about 1.2 billion euros ($1.3bn). An Italian source told La Repubblica Italian daily that this deal is an initial step of a greater order that includes 4 more frigates, 24 Typhon jets, 24 trainer aircrafts and a satellite. Accordingly, it was called “the order of the century” as it is supposed to cost 11 billion euros.

The deal provoked international criticism as it was seen as a settlement, according to which Italy was to calm down its demands to hand over the murders of the Italian student Julio Regeni, who the Italian Prosecution charged 5 Egyptian police officers with torturing him to death. “We should rather call it the shame of the century,” commented Riccardo Noury, a spokesman for Amnesty Italy, in a dialogue with Al Jazeera. Moreover, Amnesty Italy launched #StopArmiEgitto campaign against the deal.

In Egypt, the massive expenditure on arming raises questions against the background of the deteriorating economic and social conditions, particularly with the widespread of COVID19 in the second wave of the pandemic since the beginning of December 2020. “This money should be directed to purchase the new vaccinations against COVID19, to support the health sector, and to relieve the social suffering of the poor Egyptians,” said Abdullah Abdel Gawad (a pseudonym), a physician in the Egyptian Ministry of Health, who spoke to Egypt Watch.