Russia and Egypt conduct first ever joint naval drill

The Russian and Egyptian navies have conducted artillery fire exercises in the Mediterranean sea as they conclude their first ever joint naval drills which spanned the last three days, Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reports.

The exercises, called Bridge of Friendship-2015 involved 15 different tasks which took place between 10-12 June with aerial and marine units taking part. The last three days marked the practical phase of meetings between the two defence ministries which began earlier this month. The drills follow a growing partnership between the Egyptian and Russian militaries which saw the defence ministries of the two countries strike a deal in March for Russia to supply Egypt with military hardware and train its servicemen in its academies.

Today vessels from both sides opened artillery fire against drifting targets according to Black Sea Fleet captain Vyacheslav Trukhachev. While some aspects of the joint drill have involved practicing communication and maneuvering this was one of several combat situation tasks.

F-16 planes from the Egyptian air force also joined in the exercise, helping to orchestrate a hypothetical aerial attack against Russian and Egyptian vessels.

In the exercise Russia was represented by the missile cruiser Moscow, the missile hovercraft Samum, the large sea tanker Ivan Bubnov and an MB-31 sea tug. On the other hand Egypt sent its Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh frigate, the missile boats April 25 and 18 June as well as the Shalateen tanker.

Although other Russian units in the exercise were from the Black Sea Fleet, one vessel from the Baltic Fleet also joined the drills - the large landing ship Alexander Shabalin.

The Egypt-Russian naval exercises almost immediately follow the largest ever joint exercises held between the Russian and Chinese navies that were carried out last month, also in the Mediterranean.

Although the Russian navy outlined late last year that its two priority areas in the coming years will be the Arctic and the Black Sea, in February Moscow made a move on the Mediterranean after agreeing a deal with Cyprus which allowed the Russian navy to use its ports. The Cypriot government played down the deal, claiming this would only be the case in the case of a "humanitarian crisis".