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Saint-Nazaire to receive 400 Russian seamen for training under Mistral contract

May 01, 2014, 22:12 UTC+3 PARIS
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PARIS, May 01, /ITAR-TASS/. The French city of Saint-Nazaire is preparing to receive 400 Russian seamen for training under the Mistral contract, the Ouest-France and Figaro newspapers said on their websites on Thursday, May 1.

They 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.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that before severing the contract France should calculate its own losses. “The tide over Crimea will subside and relations will be restored. And when European politicians make such statements today, they should think about their consequences, primarily for the interests of their own countries. And I personally ask the minister of foreign affairs of France and other European politicians to calm down. Otherwise, they will take steps that will certainly entail consequences,” Rogozin 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 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,” 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.

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.

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.

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, Rosoboronexport CEO Anatoly Isaikin said.

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