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Russia, France signed an agreement on four Mistrals

Russia, France signed an agreement on four Mistrals 25.01.2011
Text: newsru.com
Photo: Mistral class assault landing ship. military-today.com
Russian-French intergovernmental agreement on construction of four Mistral class assault landing ships for Russian Navy was signed on Tuesday in Saint-Nazaire, France.

The document was subscribed in the presence of French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian vice premier Igor Sechin, reports Interfax. The signing ceremony was held at STX shipyards which are supposed to build helicopter carriers for Russia.

As was previously reported by Roman Trotsenko, president of JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC, which is going to build Mistrals along with STX), it is planned to localize production of Mistral class ships in Russia gradually. "The first ship will be on 20 percent built in Russia, the second one – on 40, the third one – up to 60, and the fourth one – up to 80 percent", said Trotsenko. According to him, USC planned to sign final contract till Apr 30, 2011.

Answering the question whether each landing ship would still cost Russia EUR 600 mln, Trotsenko said that "less than 600 mln [EUR]".

A source in Russian Navy Main HQ previously told to news agencies that the first helicopter carrier would be based in Pacific Fleet main naval base – Vladivostok, but prior to that appropriate basing infrastructure should be prepared.

Mistral class multipurpose assault landing ship has standard displacement of 16,500 tons; full displacement is 21,300 tons (32,300 tons with loaded dock); length is 199 meters; beam is 32 meters; draft is 6.2 meters; full speed is 18.8 knots; fuel range is up to 19,800 miles. Air wing consists of 16 helicopters (8 transport and 8 attack ones). Six helicopters can be simultaneously placed on the top deck.

At present, French Navy has two Mistral class helicopter carriers in the inventory; third ship is currently under construction.

We recall that Russia and France on Dec 2010 officially declared that international consortium consisting of United Shipbuilding Corporation (Russia) and DCNS (France) would build two Mistral class ships in Saint-Nazaire and other two under license in Russia. The tender was issued in Oct 2010 by Russian defense ministry.

It was reported that "the critical decision has been made to build Mistrals at Kotlin Island, St. Petersburg". Those are going to be absolutely new shipyards of JSC Admiralteyskie Verfi, said a source in defense industry then.

Construction of Mistrals in Russia may be kicked off after 2014. Reportedly, building of the first ship would cost EUR 720 mln, the second one – EUR 650 mln.

Meanwhile, Georgia concerns over Russia's procurement of the French helicopter carriers. "Georgia's position on this issue remains the same. As you know, we have expressed our opinion several times during preliminary talks on this agreement. Of course, these are negotiations between the two countries, and this is their sovereign right", said Georgian deputy foreign minister Nino Kalandadze.

According to her, Georgia and a number of other countries "voiced the threats which can follow this agreement". "But we hope that both countries consider those threats", said the deputy foreign minister.

In addition, NATO counts on the fact that Russia would not use Mistral ships neither against its allies nor Russia's neighbors, said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Monday's press conference in Brussels. He also pointed out that NATO considered the Mistral sale a bilateral matter of Russia and France.

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