MOSCOW, July 28 /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s United Shipbuilding Company will transfer the first Mistral ship to the Navy in 2015, as scheduled, USC President Alexei Rakhmanov said on Monday.
“We have the contract deadlines; after that, the finishing and installation of weapons and means of communications. This will be done at our own shipyards… All this work is in the schedule,” he told the Ekho Moskvy radio.
“We acted as shipbuilders. We built the hull and completed all work, the stern, on time,” Rakhmanov said.
He believes that France will not give up its obligations under the Mistral contract with Russia. “The French are very good at counting money. They won’t hurt themselves. There is an international obligation. Any sanctions are a way to bypass some principles of free trade and bargain for some additional advantages,” the official said,
French President Francois Hollande said France would fulfill its obligations to build the first Mistral ship and hand it over to Russia as scheduled.
He said there could be no question of failing to deliver. “Russia has paid,” he said, adding that otherwise France would have to pay a fine of 1.1 billion euros.
Washington earlier advised Paris to suspend the deal with Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama voiced his concern about it in Brussels and raised this issue again at a meeting with Hollande in Paris in early June.
However 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.
Under the contract, each Mistral ship has to be built by France within 36 months. The first of them, the Vladivostok, is to arrive in St. Petersburg from Saint-Nazaire, France, in December 2014. In St. Petersburg it will be equipped with Russian weapons, military hardware and systems. After that and the crew training, the Vladivostok will sail off to its base in 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 continued 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, the spokesperson said.
Apart from these two ships, Russia has also purchased French technology for the combat information control and communications systems.
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-calibre automatic systems to repel attacks from sea. This will allow the ships to go on missions with fewer escort vessels in tow.
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 shipyard is to build 90% of each of the ships and then they will be floated off to be taken to Toulon for completion.
Russian enterprises are also involved in the project. The Baltic Shipyard laid down the keel of one of the two Mistral ships, named Vladivostok, in strict compliance with the approved schedule. A similar ceremony for the second ship named Sevastopol took place in May 2013.
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.
Russia is buying the French helicopter carrier Mistral with French equipment, including combat navigation devices, but will arm it with its own weaponry. The Mistral ships will carry upgraded Russian Ka-32 Alligator attack helicopters.