Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat- Algeria will get in 2011 modern warships equipped with American anti-submarine missiles following a deal with Italy worth 4 billion euros. The deal replaces a similar agreement with France which Algeria decided to cancel because of negotiations between Paris and Rabat to sell FREMM frigates. Algeria concluded another deal with Italy to sell 100 helicopters.
An Algerian source acquainted with military affairs told Asharq Al-Awsat that a high-level delegation from the Defense Ministry is in Italy since last Saturday to inspect the workshop manufacturing the six frigates which Algeria demanded at the end of last year after canceling a similar deal with France. The reason is an agreement which Paris signed with Rabatto to sell it the same frigates. The competition between Algeria and Morocco to acquire the most modern arms and military equipment is not a secret to observers of the region. Despite the Algerian-French disagreement over what was called “Rabat’s intrusion in the negotiations”, many military agreements projects in the military field are still ongoing and were the result of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Algeria at the end of 2007.
The same source said the Defense Ministry’s delegation held during the visit, which ends on Saturday, meetings with senior officials in the Italian Defense Ministry, most notably General Aldo Schiralli, the ministry’s secretary general, and Naval Forces Commander Admiral Andrea Camprelgheri. The delegation inspected the workshop where the “FREMM” frigates are built in Pisa, northwest of Italy, and talked to officials from “Fincantieri” group which is building them at its headquarters in Trieste, the Alps Mountains on the border with Slovenia. Within the framework of cooperation with Italy, the Algerian security forces will be provided soon with 100 “109-A”, “LUH” and “AW 139” helicopters made by the “Agusta Westland” Company under a bilateral agreement that was revealed during the Algerian delegation’s visit to Italy.
According to the source, the value of the “FREMM” frigates deal is 4 billion euros while that of the helicopters deal is not known as it comes under the “modernization of the armed forces” program which started in 2002 and which involves equipping all branches of the Algerian army which received early this year a squadron of the modern Russian-made “Sukhoi 30” aircraft in accordance with a $7 billion deal concluded in 2006. The source referred to “US reservations in principle” about selling the frigates equipped with US equipment.
In a manifestation of the Defense Ministry delegation’s visit, an official in the Algerian Navy announced yesterday the start of exercises off the Italian coasts between 18 and 25 September. The exercises will be held within the framework of the 5+5 Euro-Mediterranean group and military cooperation between Algeria and Italy.