Egyptian Naval History

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by ThomasDamsgard
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Egyptian Naval History

Egyptian naval history

Ships were first constructed in a very basic manner in which they used reeds. These ships were in no way able to travel in the Red or Mediterranean Sea, and so their purpose was only to navigate through the Nile. Whenever ships were required to endure longer travels, Egypt often imported cedar wood from Byblos, whom they had good trade relations with. At the same time, they would ask other states that they traded with to supply them with a certain amount of ships. This is exemplified in the Amarna letters where we find a request to the King of Cyprus to construct ships for the Egyptian navy. By the time of the Battle of the Sea Peoples, the Egyptian had become experts in constructing ships. Their ships had a single mast with a horizontal square sail on it. One bow was usually decorated with a human skull being crushed by a lion’s head. These ships often had two rudder oars, since built in rudders were not invented at the time. At the same time, they could have been as heavy as 70 or 80 tonnes with around 50 rowers.

About the ships

Ancient Egyptian ships

The Egyptian Navy has adopted the 60m diesel-powered Ambassador MK III fast missile patrol craft. The construction of the boats began in spring 2001. Egypt already had an older version of the Ambassador patrol craft in service, but the new boats would contain an update in design meant to make the vessels more resistant to radar detection. Design was conducted with the assistance of Lockheed Martin. Throughout recent years, Egypt has been constructing various Ramos-grade shipyards, which are capable of making more recent vessels like larger fast attack crafts, low-grade aircraft carriers (such as Oryx-class or Nimitz-class) and nuclear submarines, though none of the aforementioned vessles have been constructed there.The navy is currently undergoing a modernization of its surface fleet. On 16 February 2015, the Egyptian Navy ordered one FREMM multipurpose frigate from the French shipbuilder DCNS to enter service before the opening of the New Suez Canal, as part of a larger deal (including 24 Rafales and a supply of missiles) worth €5.2bn. Egypt has also signed a €1bn contract with DCNS to buy four Gowind 2,500 ton corvettes with an option for two more. The ageing submarine fleet is to be replaced starting in 2016 when the first of four Type 209 submarine's worth €920 million start arriving from Germany.On 07 August 2015, Le Monde reported that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are in discussions with France to purchase the two amphibious assault ship Mistral class originally intended for Russia. Le Monde quoted a French diplomatic source as confirming that French President François Hollande discussed the matter with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during his visit to Egypt during the inauguration of the New Suez Canal in Ismailia. On 24 September 2015, the French presidency announced that an agreement had been reached with Egypt for the supply of the two Mistrals.

This war is perhaps the most famous Egyptian war heavily involving the naval strength of the empire, and it is the first to ever be well documented. During the reign of Rameses III which was in 1182 BCE to 1151 BCE, a new threat arose to challenge the Egyptians in a different way than what they were used to. A new people called the Sea People were arriving in the Levantine region and destroying its cities. Already the once mighty Hittites were destroyed by these people of mysterious origin and it soon became obvious that Egypt with all of its wealth would be next. Rameses III prepared a mighty fleet and planned to repulse the Sea Peoples in the Nile. In the account from the temple relief of Medinat Habu Ramises states, "I prepared the river-mouth like a strong wall with warships, galleys, and light craft. They were completely equipped both fore and aft with brave fighters carrying their weapons, and infantry of all the pick of Egypt."In that relief, it portrays the enemy with their tall ships all falling into the Nile and pierced by the arrows that were being fired from the Egyptian ships. At the same time, Ramses claims that he lured the enemy close to Nile shore where he unleashed upon them hundreds of thousands of arrows. The Egyptians on their fast and nimble riverine crafts won against the maritime vessels of the Sea People, who are depicted by the Egyptians as ill equipped for ranged combat.

The war against the Sea People

One such example of Egyptian naval prowess is when Ahmose led a siege against the Hyksos city of Avaris at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th dynasty. One account of the siege comes from a soldier and sailor that fought in the siege named Ahmose son of Ibana. In his accounts, he states how he was stationed on a ship called the Northern in which he sailed with the Egyptian army towards Avaris. After fighting a battle, they laid siege to the city and surrounded it. The siege of Avaris must have been a combined naval and land based attack since Ahmose son of Ibana claimed to have "fought in the canal against Pezedku of Avaris".

The Siege of Avaris

Modern Egyptian ships

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Egypt's future ships

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