Egypt has received the first of two French-made, Mistral-class helicopter carriers purchased last year in an effort to upgrade its navy.

The carrier sailed on Thursday into Egypt's port city of Alexandria, where a ceremony was held. The vessel has been christened Gamal Abdel-Nasser after Egypt's nationalist president during the 1950s and 1960s.

The second, identical vessel will arrive in September. Cairo is said to be planning to purchase Russian assault helicopters for the ships.

Egypt is trying to boost its military, including the navy, and play a more assertive role in the turbulent Middle East. It has purchased 24 French Rafale warplanes, beefing up its air force which has mostly relied on U.S.-made F-16 fighter-jets.

Egypt receives an annual $1.3 billion in U.S. aid, primarily used to purchase arms.