Russian Navy questions whether it needs French warship
MOSCOW, December 9 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Navy is continuing discussions on whether to purchase a French warship, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
The chief of the General Staff said on Tuesday that Russia would decide by the end of 2009 whether to purchase a Mistral class amphibious assault ship from France.
"Specialists at different levels are currently studying the Mistral's specifications, as well as infrastructural and basing requirements for this class of warship," a ministry official told RIA Novosti.
He said training operation, service and maintenance personnel following the ship's integration into the Russian Navy would demand extra attention.
He also said that a final decision should be based on "a thorough assessment of the effectiveness of [French] technology in the framework of domestic shipbuilding program."
Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said in late November that Russia could build its own helicopter carrier on a par with the French Mistral-class warship, and that the Defense Ministry could contract the United Shipbuilding Corporation to build it.
The Russian military earlier announced that it was considering buying one of the Mistral-class ships, worth 400-500 million euros (around $600-$750 mln), and potentially building three or four vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS.
A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 battle tanks, and 450 soldiers. The vessel is equipped with a 69-bed hospital and can be used as an amphibious command ship.
Many Russian military and industry experts have questioned the financial and military sense of the purchase.
Russia's current arms procurement program through 2015 does not provide for construction or purchases of large warships, so the acquisition of a French warship is more likely under a new program, through 2020, which has yet to be developed.
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