Each warship can deploy 16 rotary wing aircraft, and depending on the types of helicopters the ships can be used for logistical missions, anti submarine ωλɾʄλɾɛ and amphibious assault. Egypt’s lack of high endurance destroyers, however, means the range of these ships as power projection assets remains limited due to the lack of a viable escort.
Of note in Egypt’s recent drills was the fact that the EMS Gamal Abdul Nasser carried both Russian Ka-52K Alligator and American AH-64D attack helicopters – the only time these two classes have ever been seen deployed together. These are considered the world’s two foremost classes of attack helicopter alongside the Russian Mi-35, and provide greater diversity to the Egyptian carriers’ air wings than a single class of combat aircraft could.
Egypt is the only foreign operator of the Ka-52 and one of the largest operators of the AH-64, and is the only country in the world to deploy both aircraft. The Ka-52 is a much newer design, and retains many considerable advantages over the Apache. The aircraft’s 9M120 Ataka missiles have a greater penetrative capability against enemy armour, its rockets are larger, it is faster and its sensors are considered superior – including the OES-52 electro optical observation and laser targeting system and the formidable Arbalet-52 dual band coherent pulse radar.
Most importantly, particularly for the Navy, the Ka-52’s anti ship capabilities are unrivalled among attack helicopters, and the aircraft can deploy Kh-31 anti ship cruise missiles with ranges over 100km and speeds exceeding Mach 3. Egypt’s helicopter carriers the only ones in the world which carry aircraft with such high end anti ship capabilities.
Egypt is not know to have acquired navalised variants of the Apache, such as the British AgustaWestland Apache, meaning they lack folding wings for below deck storage and are not optimised for deployment from carriers. It remains uncertain whether the American helicopters’ deployment from the Mistral Class is permanent, or whether they were temporarily deployed for the purposes of exercises.
The Apache benefits from a 33% larger missile carriage and the ability to operate at higher altitudes, which while very useful in theatres such as Afghanistan is of limited importance in East Africa or the Middle East.