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Mistral class amphibious assault ship

After eight months of negotiations, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande announced on on 05 August 2015 that they had reached a deal to to terminate the contract for the construction and delivery of Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia. As part of the agreement, France fully refunded the sum of 800 million Euros which had been prepaid originally for the vessels. The deal also called for Russian systems already installed on the vessels to be returned to Russia, after which point France would be left with full ownvership and use of the ships. Russia, for its part, stated that it considered the issue to be fully settled.

Once Moscow finally gave up on the Mistral deal, all that remained under discussion was how large of a sum France should pay back to Russia for the failed contract. During the negotiations on the Mistral deal Russia and France discussed only one question — the sum of the compensation. "We switch the conversation to business — give us our money back… We're now discussing just one thing — the exact sum of money France owes Russia," Oleg Bochkaryov, a deputy chairman of the Russian Military Industrial Complex said 26 May 2015.

Bochkaryov told journalists that Russia plans to build its own Mistral-class helicopter carriers to replace the ones not delivered by France. “We have these types of ships planned…but we will build them a bit differently. We’re not going to blatantly copy the [French] Mistral [design] right out,” Bochkaryov said.

According to Kommersant, Bochkaryov was rebuked by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin because Russia has never officially given up on buying the two warships from France and Bochkaryov had never taken part in the negotiations on their delivery.

Russia is capable of building its own equivalent of Mistral-class helicopter carrier equipped with nuclear power engines as Moscow is aware of the design of the French-made ship, deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma's Committee on Industry Vladimir Gutenev told RIA Novosti 27 May 2015. "It will not be difficult from a technical point of view to build something like Mistral especially since we have gained access to the drawing list of the [French] helicopter carriers as a number of our weapons systems are adapted to the military characteristics of these ships," Gutenev said.

Should the Russian Armed Forces need to build a ship similar to the French-made Mistral, it will be a "ship similar in size, but with a nuclear power engine," which will be equipped with "air defense and anti-submarine defense systems."

A group of Russian experts is expected in September 2015 to travel to France for dismantling communications equipment and control helicopter type "Mistral", Tass reported on 04 August 2015 a source in the Russian system of military-technical cooperation. "Now we are preparing a group of experts to carry out the dismantling of the equipment due to the helicopter. They travel to France planned for September this year," - a spokesman said.

Earlier, a source in the military-industrial complex told Tass that Russia had already prepared a team of specialists, who will travel to dismantle the equipment to the "Mistral". The development of control and communication systems for these ships engaged group "Control" (included in the combined instrument-corporation).

Following the termination, the French Mistral-class helicopter carriers were now awaiting new customers, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said 06 August 2015 in an interview with RTL, although he did not elaborate as to who the prospective buyers are, Atlantico reported. “There are many interested buyers because it is a high quality vessel with wide application,” said the minister.

A number of countries are rumored to be interested in purchasing the Mistrals, including China and India. Not a single nation had made an open bid for the warships built specifically for Russia. “Honestly, I really do not know what they (France) will continue to do with the two ships they’ve already built, which in terms of design were originally made for the Russian weapons. Nothing else can be fixed into there,” Klintsevich said.

India, Brazil and Vietnam are potential buyers for the French helicopter Mistral ("Mistral"), previously destined for the Russian Navy. This opinion was expressed in an interview with the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), Ruslan Pukhov. "Usually vehicles are built to order, so it is a unique case, and we will see what this" soap opera "will end - said Pukhov. - It is logical to assume that the French will offer those ships to those countries that by its military Marine program planned this kind of ships have, or try to sell the ships at a reduced price to countries that have a tradition of the acquisition of the French used equipment."

Mistral - Background

Russian ordered from France two "Mistral" class ships in the summer of 2011. The first helicopter carrier, "Vladivostok", was planned to transfer the Russian fleet in the autumn of 2014, but delivery had been delayed due to the events in Ukraine. The second ship, dubbed "Sevastopol", was launched in November 2014, was also frozen.

The French newspaper Le Monde reported in August 2015 that the officers of the Main Staff of the French Armed Forces from the very beginning did not agree with the intention to sell the Elysee Palace "Mistral" of Russia. "A complete coincidence of views on the possible sale of" Mistral "of Russia in France never happened before. From the beginning of the senior officers of the Main Staff of the French Armed Forces expressed its disagreement with the plan of selling Russian helicopter".

It noted that in the end it was a positive decision "for the sake of maintaining good relations between France and Russia, but also based on the need to financially support naval shipyards of Saint-Nazaire, is in a difficult situation." "This is the line to take the then French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Defense Minister Herve Morin - and they insisted. The final decision was made by President Sarkozy, who acted as arbitrator in the dispute," - the newspaper said.

France suspended “until further notice” the delivery of a warship to Russia because of the Ukraine crisis. The office of French President Francois Hollande said in a statement 25 November 2014 that the "current situation in eastern Ukraine still does not allow for the delivery” of the first Mistral-class helicopter carrier built for Russia.

French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said 01 January 2015 that his country would deliver two warships ordered by Russia only if there were concrete signs of lasting peace in Ukraine. "There needs to be ... a process of ceasefire that is respected and a political roadmap that would lead to the return of peace and calm," Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio station. "I see that efforts are being made, but as long as they are neither tangible nor verifiable, we cannot make a decision," he added.

Moscow initially had no plans to file claims against France over Hollande's decision to put the Mistral warship deal on hold, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said. “No, we are not planning to file any [claims] at the moment,” he said. “Everything is specified in the contract, and we will act under that contract, just like all civilized people do.”

The defense capability of Russia and the Russian Navy will not suffer as a result of France’s decision to put the delivery of the first Mistral-class helicopter carrier on hold, Adm. Vladimir Komoedov, chairman of the defense committee of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said 03 September 2014. “This will not undermine our combat readiness because this ‘tin can’ will require a lot of getting used to, and will most likely come without a control system; and we don’t really need a helicopter carrier vessel,” Adm. Komoedov told RIA Novosti. Adm. Komoedov noted that the ship was actually not crucial for the Russian Navy, since Russia had all the necessary technology to build vessels not in any way inferior to their foreign equivalents, especially French ones.

Vladivostok was floated out in October 2013. The second Mistral-class amphibious assault ship built in France under contract with Russia was floated out 20 November 2014. The helicopter carrier, named the Sevastopol, left its dry dock in the French port city of Saint-Nazaire before just a few onlookers.

An article in Le Point weekly magazine in May 2015 stated that if Paris falls back on its promise to give the two vessels to Moscow, the French government could end up having to pay an overall cost of up to €5 billion ($5.7 billion), if it does not fulfill its contractual obligations. “Instead of bringing the French ship building cooperation DCNS a profit of €1.2 billion and those involved in the construction €980 million, the cancellation of the deal could cost France between €2 billion and €5 billion,” the article stated.

The magazine said that talks are ongoing between the respective French and Russian parties, although, “significant differences in regards to the amount of compensation exist.” The publication adds that “France is now looking to return Russia less than the €890 million that Moscow has already paid” for the vessels.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin ruled out allowing Paris to sell the Mistral warships to a third party without Moscow’s go-ahead. “Without our permission they can’t sell anything,” he said. Rogozin added he had already explained the situation to the French, while Russia has an end-user certificate for the stern parts of the vessels.

The stern parts of the helicopter carriers were built at a shipyard in St. Petersburg before being moved to France for further assembly, he explained. France will also be unable to use the Mistral vessels as part of their fleet because the warships were built to meet the Russian Navy’s specifications, Rogozin also stressed.



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