Russian military and French shipbuilding company DCNS failed to come to terms over an important issue regarding Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, an informed insider of Russian defense industry told Izvestiya.
Russian defense ministry rejected the offer of DCNS to equip Mistral ships with landing assault craft.
"The French proposed to equip Mistral-class amphibious ships built for Russian Navy with L-CAT landing craft designed by CNIM). However, the Russian military turned down that idea without explaining the reason", the source said. According to press service of Russian Navy HQ, no final decisions have been made on configuration of Mistral ships so far.
"Things change every day. As of now, the project is up to pre-scheduled plan. But its content is secret", explained the Navy spokesman.
L-CAT craft are newest landing catamarans which motion is based on air-cavity or so called 'water-cutting' principle. The ships were commissioned into French Navy in Jan 2011. Mistral is also capable to carry LCAC air-cushion landing craft (designed by American company Bell Aerospace), but France does not produce this kind of vessels.
According to the source, however, Russia has no option other than the French proposal. As for the interviewee, shortly before signing of the contract for the first two Mistral ships, Russian defense ministry asked French shipbuilders to redesign the ship's dock to be suitable for Project 12061 Murena air-cushion landing boat developed by dock Almaz Central Design Bureau. However, Murena landing craft are wider and higher than L-CAT and LCAC and will not fit in the ship's dock.
"Even if we redesign the boat and make it suitable for the dock, its carrying capacity would be reduced. Now such landing boat may carry a T-72 battle tank", explained Vladimir Scherbakov, a naval arms expert.
Chief engineer of the Almaz design bureau Konstantin Golubev said it was impossible to modify design of Murena boats "on the fly, because thorough work is needed". He reminded that construction of Murena-class landing craft was no longer in progress. Last three boats of this type were exported to South Korea in 2005-2006, writes Izvestiya newspaper.
According to Scherbakov, Project 11770 Serna air-cavity landing boats (developed by the Alekseyev Design Bureau) can be used as an option. Mistral-class ship may accommodate at least two boats of this kind.
"But serious trials must be held to exclude the problems like those happened to Mistral's air wing. Then Russian helicopter Ka-27 did not fit in the hangar, and Ka-52 did not suit the elevator", said the expert.
Scherbakov stressed there was an array of other unsettled issues in the Mistral configuration. All of them will be discussed during the visit of Russian deputy defense minister Alexander Sukhorukov to France late in Sept.
According to Vzglyad, Moscow and Paris signed the contract for two Mistral-class ships in June 2011. The contract value is EUR 1.2 bln.
The first ship for Russia was laid down early in Feb 2012 and is planned to join Russian Navy in 2014. The second Mistral-class ship is to be commissioned in 2015.
First two ships will be named Vladivostok and Sevastopol. Besides, all Mistral-class ships within Russian Navy will be armed with latest Russian-made offensive and defensive arms including supersonic cruise missiles.
It was reported early in Aug that Russia had started production of trial helicopters Ka-52 to be based on Mistral ships.
Russian Navy will start enlisting officers and sailors to the Mistral crews on a competitive basis in 2013.
As was said in a US Congress report published in May, the Unites States and its Baltic allies were concerned over Mistral ships to be sold to Russia.