Paris February, 2010: The Russian Defense Ministry is negotiating procurement of additional three Mistral class amphibious assault ships from France. The estimated cost of each of the four ships is estimated at 300 – 400 million Euros. The negotiations began in September 2009 and by February 2010 French President Nicolas Sarkozy approved the sale of the first ship. Delivery of three additional vessels is also being considered. Two of the ships will be built in France and two in St. Petersbutg, Russia.
The Mistral class ship carries 16 helicopters, four landing barges, and up to 70 vehicles, including 13 main battle tanks. In addition to the crew, the vessel accommodates 450 troops. Supporting contingency operations, Mistral is also equipped with a 69-bed hospital and can also be used as an amphibious command ship.
The Russian navy primarily considers fielding a single vessel. Following the initial trials, 3-4 additional ships of the same class could be considered. These will be jointly constructed by a Russian shipyard. The Russian shipbuilding industry has not attempted construction of a vessel of this scale for some time. The largest ships built by ex-Soviet shipyards were threeKuznetsov class and four Kiev class (STOVL) aircraft carriers, of which only one is currently operational with the Russian Navy.
The French Navy received the first Mistral class vessel in December 2005. Sofar two ships have been completed – Mistral and Tonnerre, the construction of the third ship was launched in April 2009.
The suppply of the French amphibious support ship raised concern among the Baltic states as well as in Washington – where Pentagon spokesman Jeoff Morrel indicated these vessels could beef up Russia’s offensive potential “these new warships would give Russia additional capabilities to once again threaten Georgia from the Black Sea.” said Morrel.