On Saturday, July 3rd, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi finally launched the long-anticipated naval base in Gargoub Port. The giant base, which is located at Egypt’s northwestern coast in the Mediterranean, is named “The 3rd of July” in honor of the anniversary of removing the Muslim Brotherhood regime from power, in 2013. The opening ceremony of the new naval base was concluded by performing “Kader 2021” exercises to showcase the advanced equipment and high level of professionalism accomplished by the Egyptian Navy, over the past few years.
Gragoub’s “3rd of July” base is the third naval base, and the fourth military base, to be built during the last five years, within the scope of a sustainable process to re-build the capacities of the Egyptian armed forces, especially the naval fleet.
In addition to Gargoub base, the Egyptian army runs a naval base in Ras Banas in the southern region of the Red Sea, a central naval base in eastern Port Said at the northeastern of Suez Canal, and Mohamed Naguib military base in Marsa Matrouh. Mohamed Naguib is the biggest military base of its kind in Africa and the Middle East, and it started operation in July 2017.
The Egyptian navy is ranked the 7th strongest naval force in the world, according to Global Firepower index for the year 2021. A huge effort has been exerted in the past five years to get the Egyptian naval forces to this advanced ranking. The difficult journey to refurbish the Egyptian naval forces started in January 2017, by splitting the Egyptian navy into two fleets: southern and northern. The southern fleet is primarily concerned with activities in the Mediterranean, while the northern fleet is focused on the Red Sea.
Both fleets are being redesigned to be able to deter potential threats arising from the growing geopolitical conflicts in the eastern Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa. They also enhance Egypt’s economic profile as a logistical hub between Europe, Africa, and Asia. That is not only limited to the importance of Egypt’s Suez Canal for international trade, but also Egypt’s emerging potential as a hub for gas exports in the Mediterranean.
To put things into perspective, let’s compare the advanced arms and equipment that the Egyptian navy owns today to what it had ten years ago.
In 2011, Egypt barely owned a handful number of Chinese submarines procured in the 1980s and a few frigates recycled by the US navy that Egypt bought in the 1990s. In 2020, Egypt has become one of nine countries, worldwide, that owns Mistral helicopter carriers, GoWind corvettes, Italian and French made FREMM frigates, and advanced submarines Type-209/1400mod.
Meanwhile, the three factories affiliated to the Egyptian navy are currently cooperating with French and German shipbuilding companies to locally manufacture Egyptian frigates and other naval equipment. On Saturday, at the Gargoub base opening ceremony, President El-Sisi raised the Egyptian flag on new 47 naval vessels, marking their entry into the Egyptian armed forces.
The capacity building process of the Egyptian naval forces is not only limited to improving the armament level of the fleet. Educating and training personnel on the latest world trends of naval technology has also been a priority.
Since 2019, the Egyptian navy got involved into an unprecedented number of regional and international military exercises. The majority of these joint exercises were carried out in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. But, also, a good number of them took place in non-Egyptian waters. For example, currently, the Egyptian navy personnel are participating in the “Sea Breeze 2021” drills in the Black Sea, with other 32 countries, under the supervision of the U.S. Sixth Fleet. The event started on June 28th and will continue until July 10th.
The geographic location of the new naval base in Gargoub, the timing of its inauguration, the top Arab officials invited to the opening ceremony, and the scenario of the Kader-21 exercises carry a number of messages by Egypt, not only to the Egyptian people, but also to regional and international rivals and friends.
All these message fall under one title; that is: Egypt is the new master of the two seas and the future of the region falls in Egypt’s capable hands.