JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) currently has no shipyards capable to build Mistral-class ships within a period required by defense ministry and Russian Navy, says Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of Strategy and Technology Analysis Center. Russian defense ministry plans to put out tender for a helicopter carrier in Sept.
At present, Russia holds negotiations with France on procurement of four Mistral-type multipurpose amphibious ships. Moscow insists that only first two carriers would be constructed in France with increasing involvement of Russian industry, while third and fourth ships would be entirely built by Russian shipyards. However, USC reported on Thursday that defense ministry had renounced a plan of non-competitive procurement of Mistrals and decided to run a tender for a helicopter carrier. The corporation is about to submit three shipyards for a tender: Admiralteyskie Verfi (St. Petersburg), Yantar (Kaliningrad), or Zvezda (Bolshoi Kamen, Far East).
"Holding tenders while conclusion of macrocontracts on arms import or civil machinery products is generally accepted world practice, and the steps of defense ministry in this direction are absolutely rational and logic", Makienko says.
The idea to import multipurpose amphibious ships started up just because Russian shipyards will need more time to build them; moreover, it will definitely be more expensive, reasons the expert. In this context, the major competitive advantage of the French offer is that Russia could get the first Mistral-type ship within only 6-10 months after contract signing, because one of such ships (Dixmude) is at final stage of construction at STX shipyard (Saint-Nazaire), adds Makienko. In addition, the choice in favor of the French carrier seems more politically reasonable, says the expert.
"Anyway, by these circumstances (time, money, policy), Mistral looks like a favorite now", concludes Makienko.
What he really doubts is USC's decisiveness to build the first ship at Russian yards within 30 months (2.5 years). This term was voiced Thursday by Igor Riabov, official representative of the corporation.
"Actually, I'm sure it is impossible at USC shipyards. At its best, Yantar can build only blocks for such ships. Potential construction of the carrier at the Far East is just a bluff, because virtually it will be direct buying from South Korea", stated the expert having added that Admiralteyskie Verfi which is the USC's best plant asset also had never build warships of this class and displacement. Besides, that yard is heavily workloaded with submarines for export and will soon get the contract to build subs for Russian Black Sea Fleet.
As a variant of co-operation with French partners USC offers to establish a joint venture on the basis of ether Admiralteyskie Verfi or Yantar; the venture would be oriented on construction of Mistral-type ships.
As for Makienko, it is logic that USC strives to load its productive capacities with work. According to this point of view, creation of Russian-French joint venture on the basis of Admiralteyskie Verfi seems an interesting variant; however, as for workload of Russian shipbuilding industry in general and considering technological and economical factors, the optimal variant would be allocation of a carrier construction at Baltiysky Zavod shipyard.