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Argument 1. Our navy has always imported warships

Text: Central Navy Portal, Dmitry Mamin
Photo: Mistral class assault landing ship. corlobe.tk
Of course, first of all they recall Peter the Great who studied shipbuilding in Holland and starting from scratch created powerful navy in Russia with broad assistance of foreign engineers and military experts.

The Russian Empire in the era of armored fleet and then the Soviet Union also imported warships. Here are some famed and proud names in Russian Navy's history:
  • Tsesarevich, Bayan, and Svetlana were built in France, so familiar to us now;
  • Varyag and Retvizan were launched by American shipyards;
  • Koreyets was a genuine "viking" built in Sweden;
  • Bogatyr, Novik, and Askold are of German heritage;
  • Italian-built Tashkent;
  • S-type submarines trace back to German "class-fellows"…

But supporters of "shopping concept" forget to mention that tsarist regime purchased ships with permission to build them at Russian yards, and that was effectively implemented. Technical requirements for those ships were pretty high in order to pull up the level of Russian shipbuilding industry to the highest world standards.

The Soviet Union reduced such imports to the minimum in the pre-war period – they preferred to buy and acquire technologies and projects in other ways. Moreover, during the cold war export of warships from potential enemy became impossible at all due to obvious reasons; industrial espionage came to the forefront. To tell the truth, shipyards of the "social camp" – Poland, East Germany etc. – used to build large series of landing crafts and small-size antisubmarine ships for Soviet Navy. But they were our friends in those days...

So what's the problem, why exports of naval arms have gradually come to nothing? Patriotism? Rampant development of national science or something else? Perhaps, the point is in the following. Right up to 1917 Russian warships – as well as the most of foreign ones – were primarily armed with Canet naval guns, used Barr & Stroud rangefinders as fire direction aids, and various similarly designed English-type steam engines and Belleville boilers as a main propulsion plant. If needed, change in arms and equipment did not cause any serious difficulties. In the period between the two world wars the situation was relatively the same.

However, it became radically different after the Second World War. The era of nuclear missile arms introduced colossal changes in development of offensive and defensive weapons, radar detection, surveillance, and targeting systems. The ideology of sea operations itself had been also changed. The enemy became missile-reachable without direct encounters. Members of the two antagonistic alliances – NATO and Warsaw Pact – carefully protected technology and designs of their hi-tech "cybernetic" equipment from each other. Simply said, when you know guidance method of an enemy's missile, you can invent jammers and prevent destruction of your assets. Those approaches are still in action – "electronic secrets" remain on the top, especially while keeping in mind that present-day war is impossible without precision weapons, radar detection, reconnaissance and communication facilities and so forth.

It is strange that backers of arms import philosophy take no notice of these copybook maxims. For instance, an article named "Helicopter-Carrying Varyag" in the newspaper Military Industrial Review: 'The situation is overdramatized. Modern arms are so sophisticated that sometimes even the most developed countries cannot meet all needs of their armed forces alone…' Or another passage: 'Reasons for arms import are generally the same: domestic design bureaus have failed to create weapons which meet requirements of the military and suitable for batch production in the shortest possible time', explains the author.

It bears repeating that Russia (take note, this is formalized in law) can import arms or their elements only if it is unable to produce them due to various reasons (primarily, because of lack of appropriate technologies). So according to the law, before kicking off such debates leadership of our shipbuilding and industrial corporations (USC and UIC) as well as directors of design bureaus must simply confirm their disability in the face of the nation and the Navy. Disability to create a ship like Mistral! Top-ranking shipbuilders have said nothing of the kind. What they have said proves just the contrary. But we'll talk on that below.

Clear light was shed upon the situation on November 2, 2009 when Deputy Chief of Russian Navy Main HQ Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev stated: 'We are about to buy one Mistral class ship from France and built four ships of this class here in Russia with technical support of the French party'. This could mean a desire to buy bare hull, metal heap, a pillow without stuffing. Approximate price was also voiced – EUR 400-500 mln. In addition, Russia is supposed to obtain a license for construction of four ships, and this raises the contract price up to EUR 1-1.2 bln…

Things look black, kids… Looks like Somali pirates flirt with the idea of declaring an all-out war on Russia. Logically, hasty procurement of French landing ships at a fabulous price regardless of Russian legislation and the need to support national industry can be justified by only one thing – Russia is in want of such ship to protect its strategic interests, and with the utmost promptness. So, the time has come to analyze the second reason why Mistral is just what we should buy.

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Mistral sailed away, open issues stay
Argument 1. Our navy has always imported warships
Argument 2. Mistral is a unique command ship
Argument 3. Mistral is ideal for peacekeeping and anti-piracy
Argument 4. Mistral is a 21st century multipurpose warship and just what Russian Navy needs
Argument 5. Mistral is an ideal ship for service in peacetime
Who have got through cataclysm, fall into major pessimism