Russia and France agreed last year to jointly build two Mistral class helicopter carriers at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire in France. The first, estimated to cost some €700 million, will be based with the Pacific fleet in Vladivostok, while the second will be based in Severomorsk and join Russia’s Northern fleet.
The news appeared in several media in Moscow on Wednesday with sources to a spokesman with the Headquarter of the Russian Navy.
Interfax reports that in order to base a Mistral class vessel in Severomorsk, it is required to build special piers and base additional anti-submarine and air defence systems to support the vessel.
The Navy source says the Mistral class amphibious assault vessel will be involved in landing, peacekeeping and rescue operations and can be used to combat pirates in the Indian Ocean.
While the two first Mistral class vessels will be built in France, two other will be built in Russia. Nothing is said regarding which fleet the two last vessels will be joining; the Pacific fleet, the Northern fleet, the Baltic fleet or the Black Sea fleet.
RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday, also with source to a Russian navy spokesman, that “a decision has been adopted to build Mistral class vessels at a new shipyard to be constructed on the Kotlin Island near St. Petersburg, but still under the structure of the large Admirality Naval yards.”
The construction of vessel three and four could start in 2014, while the first vessel, to be built in France, is expected to be built within 36 months after Russia makes an advance payment to France supposed to come later in January, according to RIA Novosti.
Mistral-class warships are designed for offensive power-projection through amphibious landings and air assault, using the combat helicopters and armored vehicles aboard in support of ground-force operations. The vessels are capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles including 13 battle tanks.
The French – Russian Mistral deal, announced on December 24th, is the first large-scale arms deal between a NATO country and Russia. Not all NATO members are applauding the Frence-Russian deal. U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said when asked by DefenceNews in Febraury last year about the French offer of the Mistral to Russia: “yes, we did discuss it. We had a good and thorough exchange of views. I will leave it at that.”