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GABORONE, Botswana — The Egyptian Navy will this year take delivery of both Mistral-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) warships acquired from France last year, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

Further, the report quoted officials from the manufacturer DCNS shipyard saying at least 180 Egyptian Navy officers will be sent to France at the end of March to attend training on how to operate and maintain the vessels.

An advance group from the Egyptian Navy is thought to be already in France where they are undergoing tactical training provided by specialists from DCNS, shipbuilders STX France and DCI Navfco, the training and support consultants.

Each of the sophisticated LHD vessels is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four amphibious landing craft, 70 armored vehicles and 450 soldiers.

They vessels were initially built for the Russian Navy. However, Moscow lost the boats when France joined the rest of the European Union in imposing economic and arms trade sanctions following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2013.

In a statement to AFP, the French presidency only confirmed that the sale of the Mistral-class vessels was approved by President Hollande but gave no further details:

"The president of the French Republic met with the President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. They agreed on the principles and terms of the purchase by Egypt of two Mistral class amphibious vessels," the presidency said.

The Mistral ship sale confirmed Egypt as one of most important Africa and Middle East regional customer of DCNS navy vessels. Last year, the Egyptian Navy took delivery of one of North Africa's few FREMM frigates from the French company.

In addition, DCNS is still working on a pending Egyptian order of four Gowind corvettes. The first Gowind corvette is due to arrive in Egypt before the end of 2017.

Email: onkala@defensenews.com

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