Russia gets closer to purchasing French helicopter carriers

Russia and France have coordinated the interim document before signing the final contract to purchase Mistral helicopter carriers. The sales contract has not been signed yet, it is still under discussion. Experts say that the first two vessels will cost Russia 1.2 billion euro. Russia intends to purchase four ships of the class.

On June 14 it was said that Russia and France signed the protocol of intentions to sign the contract to deliver four Mistral helicopter carriers. The date and the location for signing the agreement has not been determined yet. It is possible, though, that it will happen during the period of time from June 29 to July 3 in St. Petersburg, during a naval show in the city.

The news about the agreement between Russia's Rosoboronexport (Russian Defense Export) and France's DCNS to deliver four Mistral ships was reported by French newspaper La Tribune. The final contract, the newspaper said, would be approved on June 21 at Le Bourget air show, which Russian Prime Minister Putin is supposedly going to visit. A source at the government of the Russian Federation rejected the information, though, and said that Putin would be visiting France in June indeed, although there were no plans to sign the above-mentioned agreement.

Vladimir Popovkin, Russia's first deputy defense minister, said in the autumn of 2010 that the ministry announced tender to purchase universal helicopter carriers for the Russian navy. DCNS, a French company, won the tender and received the contract to build two Mistral class vessels.

A Mistral class vessel costs 400-500 million euro. The first Mistral ship will be built for Russia in France. France currently has two vessels of this class - Mistral and Tonnerre. Other Mistrals will be built for Russia in St.Petersburg.

The assembly of the ships may start in Russia after 2014. France will deliver ship-building technologies to Russia within the scope of the new contract too.

The Mistral class is a class of three amphibious assault ships, also known as a helicopter carrier, of the French Navy. Referred to as "projection and command ships", a Mistral class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 NH90 or Tiger helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 Leclerc tanks, or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion, and 450 soldiers. The ships are equipped with a 69-bed hospital, and are capable of serving as part of a NATO Response Force, or with United Nations or European Union peace-keeping forces.

Valentin Gridin.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov