French President Assures Russia Mistral Contract To Be Fulfilled In October

Courtesy ITAR-TASS
May 10, 2014

French President Francois Hollande said the contract to build Mistral-type ships for Russia was being implemented as scheduled and would be fulfilled in October of this year.

The contract signed in 2011 has not been revised and its implementation will be completed in October, Hollande said during a visit to Germany on Saturday, May 10.

The Vladivostok, the first of the two ships being build in France, is to arrive in Russia’s Kronstadt before November 1, 2014. It will then be equipped with Russian weapons, military hardware and systems. After that and the crew training, the Vladivostok will sail off to its base at the Pacific Fleet.

The second ship, the Sevastopol, will arrive in St. Petersburg in November 2015 to make a voyage to the Pacific Fleet and join it in the second half of 2016.

The crews for the two ships (each consisting of 177 members) and 60 instructors, who will subsequently help the sailors operate the ships, are being trained by French specialists. The first stage of training began in February of this year and will continue until the end of May. The second stage will take place from June until October in Saint-Nazaire both onshore and onboard the Vladivostok. The cost of training is included in the contract.

Infrastructure for the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol will be built by the end of September 2015. Their base will be completed in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok by the end of December 2017.

On Russia’s insistence, the design of the ships has been changed to make them capable of sailing in northern altitudes and ice-covered seas, increase their dimensions to carry large Ka-28 and Ka-52K helicopters, and to install additional weapons as such air defence systems, rapid-fire artillery guns and large-caliber automatic systems to repel attacks from sea. This will allow the ships to go on missions with fewer escort vessels in tow.

The Ouest-France and Figaro newspapers said the Russian sailors would arrive on June 1. Despite the Ukrainian crisis that has impaired the Mistral agreement, the training programme for two warship crews has not been affected and will be implemented, The Figaro said.

The Russian sailors will be trained in using onboard systems of the Vladivostok, the first of the two Mistral-type ships being built in France for Russia in cooperation with its enterprises.

The training will continue until autumn. The sailors will stay board the Smolny to be sent over for the purpose from Kronstadt.

In March, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the contract to sell two Mistral-type ships to Russia was being implemented as planned, but the final decision on their handover would be announced in October because of the crisis in Ukraine.

The Figaro said the decision would have to be made by Prime Minister Manuel Valls as chair of the inter-ministerial commission on the export of military hardware.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has repeatedly threatened to suspend the delivery of two warships as part of the third level of sanctions envisaged by the West against Russia.

However, Moscow responded by saying that in this case France would have to pay Russia over 1.2 billion euros in compensation if it severed the contract. This sum will include the contract price of two Mistral ships and penalties for failure to deliver the ships.

Apart from these two ships, Russia has also purchased French technology for the combat information control and communications systems. France will transfer a number of sensitive technologies to Russia along with Mistral ships to be purchased by Russia, including the SENIT-9 tactical combat information system installed on the helicopter carriers.

In the future, these technologies will be used in the construction of two other Mistral ships in Russia

Two Mistral-type ships are now under construction at Saint-Nazaire, France, and St. Petersburg, Russia. A possible purchase by Russia of two more ships from France will be considered based on the performance results of the first two.

The 1.1 billion euro contract for building two Mistral-type ships was signed by the defence exporting company Rosoboronexport and French DCNS in June 2011. The second ship will be named Sevastopol.

The shipyard is building two such ships for the Russian Navy under a subcontract obtained from the main contract under the project awarded to DCNS.

The shipyard is to build 90% of each of the ships and then they will be floated off to be taken to Toulon for completion.

Mistral landing helicopter carriers will perform four tasks at the same time: receive helicopters, land troops, act as a command post and a floating hospital.

Each ship will carry a group of 16 helicopters. Six of them can be deployed on the flight-deck at the same time. The cargo deck can accommodate more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles.