Russia to Purchase Mistral-Class Helicopter Carriers from France

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Dec. 28 – Russia has agreed to buy two helicopter carriers from a French-led consortium, the French and Russian governments said on Friday.

Russia has been negotiating with France for months to buy the Mistral-class ships, in its first ever purchase of military hardware from a member of NATO.

Under the deal, the Mistral-type amphibious assault ships will be built by French shipyard companies DCNS and STX along with Russia’s state-run United Shipbuilding Corporation.

The ships production might be enlarged with another two ships in the future, the Elysee Palace said on Friday.

It will provide jobs for 1,000 people at French shipyards for four years.

Some of France’s NATO allies had voiced concern, urging Paris not to sell Moscow high-tech systems that could be used against Russia’s former communist neighbors, especially since Russia’s brief 2008 war with neighboring Georgia.

Mistral type ships will significantly increase the combat ability and maneuverability of the Russian Navy. The ships can carry and deploy up to 16 helicopters, including attack helicopters like France’s Tiger or Russia’s Ka-50/52. Its main punch revolves around its four landing barges or two medium hovercraft, however, which deliver armored vehicles, tanks, and soldiers to shore. The vessel is equipped with a 69-bed hospital, and could be used as an amphibious command ship.

It can carry up to 450 people or 900 on brief voyages, as well as 16 heavy helicopters, including six simultaneously positioned on the flight deck, and up to 60 armored vehicles (in case the ship carries eight helicopters).

The Mistral purchase of is the first major defense import deal since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, showing Russia’s need for foreign technology in the sector.

During a visit to Moscow, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon says of the Mistral deal that:

“There is no question about the technology transfer, no problem regarding technology transfers… We are discussing the price and Vladimir Putin is not the easiest person to talk to about this question.”

According to informal information, an equipped helicopter ship will cost about 600 million euros (US$765 million).

Russia is France’s 13th largest export market and France is the 9th largest importer of goods to Russia. France has a 3.8 percent share of Russia’s import market.