Algeria would have the means to install a denial of access bubble in the Strait of Gibraltar

Last fall, the Chief of Staff of the French Navy [CEMM]Admiral Pierre Vandier, underlined the massive effort made by Algeria to modernize and increase the capabilities of its naval forces.

“Algeria now has six Russian Kilo-type submarines equipped with Kalibr naval cruise missiles. This changes things. It has Chinese corvettes and radars manufactured by Thales that we do not yet have,” Admiral Vandier said in an interview published by the Telegram.

Then, during the parliamentary hearings concerning the 2022 finance bill, he returned to this question, explaining that Algeria was “in the process of building two assault helicopter carriers” and that it “will soon have ten frigates and fifteen corvettes”, in addition to the “four additional submarines” it had just purchased from Russia.

In their report on “defence issues in the Mediterranean”, the deputies Jean-Jacques Ferrara and Philippe Michel-Kleisbauer described at length the capacity developments of the Algerian forces, noting, in passing, that the projected development of the tonnage of their naval component is +120% between 2008 and 2030… A figure to be compared with the expected increase [pour le moment] +3.5% for the French Navy during the same period…

Thus, according to the two rapporteurs, the modernization of Algerian military capabilities has in particular enabled the establishment of “deep-sea offensive capabilities”, concentrated in particular at Mers el-Kébir, “deep strike capabilities, including in Europe, with six Kilo submarines with SS-N-30 Kalibr missiles [dont la portée est limitée par rapport à celle des engins en service au sein de la marine russe, nldr] and its Su-30 MKA and Mig-25 PDA fighter planes”, of “quasi-ballistic firing capabilities, with the [missile] SS26 Iskander”, and “capacities of denial of access and interdiction of area in the western Mediterranean, through an anti-aircraft defense system composed of S-300 and soon S-400 and advanced radar systems [notamment de type Rezonans]jamming and electronic warfare”.

According to General Philippe Moralès, Commander of Air Defense and Air Operations [CDAOA], such capabilities could allow Algeria to “constitute a veritable bubble of denial of access in the Strait of Gibraltar and as far as southern Spain, in a logic of sanctuarization of the western Mediterranean”. Clearly, Morocco essentially having a seafront overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it would be able to block the Moroccan navy in the event of a conflict… However, relations between Rabat and Algiers are currently very tense, the two capitals having broken their diplomatic relations in August 2021, with the conflict in Western Sahara as a backdrop.

“The extent of this rearmament, particularly with regard to the economic constraints that Algeria is experiencing, raises questions about the aims pursued by the Algerian authorities. […] In addition, the constitutional revision of November 2020 now authorizes the projection of the Algerian army outside its borders within the framework of peacekeeping operations, contrary to the non-interventionist tradition of the country”, we read in the report of Messrs. Ferrara and Michel-Kleisbauer.

However, and according to the explanations obtained during the hearings conducted for the purposes of their report, the two deputies argue that “Algeria has no desire at this stage to project power” and that its “massive rearming would therefore obey for mainly dissuasive purposes: strategic signal with regard to the Moroccan rival, protection of the territory, in a context of strong security concerns at its borders [Mali et Libye]preservation of the prestige of the army and illustration of its influence on political power”.

Still, the proximity between Algiers and Moscow can be a “reason for concern”, they believe. Especially with the establishment of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner in the Sahel. “Russia is thus by far Algeria’s leading supplier: it provides 67% of Algeria’s military equipment needs. In addition, the two states have intensified their operational cooperation, with a first joint training of Russian and Algerian land forces, which took place in October 2021”, they recall.

Also, in such a context, MM. Michel-Kleisbauer and Ferrara believe that “the easing of tensions and the reestablishment of relations of trust between France and Algeria must be encouraged, in the service of the stability of the area”. And to welcome, in this regard, the recent decision of Algiers to “lift the ban on the overflight of French military flights over the airspace”.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.