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Russian Defense Ministry lukewarm on South Korean warship deal

RIA Novosti

15:18 15/07/2010 MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Defense Ministry has effectively dismissed the idea of buying a South Korean warship in place of a French Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, a Russian business daily reported on Thursday.

According to Kommersant, the United Shipbuilding Corporation proposed the purchase of a $650 million Dokdo helicopter carrier from South Korea.

In a letter to Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, USC CEO Roman Trotsenko said his corporation could buy a license to build a Dokdo-class ship at a Russian shipyard within three years.

The Defense Ministry is skeptical about the ability of Russian shipyards to build such ships in principle or their ability to build them on time, Kommersant wrote.

"The USC's proposal merits attention, but then you can declare just about anything," a ministry spokesman told the paper.

Commenting on the Kommersant report for RIA Novosti, an USC executive who insisted on anonymity confirmed that Trotsenko had indeed sent a letter to Serdyukov.

"I confirm that such letters were sent to Navy chief Vladimir Vysotsky and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov a long time ago, but we have not as of yet received a reply," the executive said.

He said Dokdo-class ships (designed and built by Hanjin Heavy Industries) were a more cost effective proposition than the Mistral.

The USC has complained to the Federal Antitrust Service about the Defense Ministry's reluctance to allow Russian shipyards to compete with foreign shipbuilders on an equal footing, but the service has dismissed its complaints, saying state arms procurements did not fall within its purview.

ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111) is the lead ship of the LPX class of amphibious landing ships of the Republic of Korea Navy, commissioned into the ROK Navy in July 2007, with specifications comparable to the French Mistral-class ship Russia is negotiating the purchase of.

The Mistral class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 armored vehicles including 13 battle tanks, and 450 personnel.

Many Russian military and industry experts have questioned the financial and military sense of the purchase, and some believe that Russia simply wants to gain access to advanced naval technology that could be used in the future in potential conflicts with NATO and its allies.

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