Russia to build port facilities for Mistral ships
MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will have to build port facilities if it decides to purchase a French Mistral helicopter carrier for the Russian Navy, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said.
Russia is negotiating the purchase of at least one Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, worth 400-500 million euros (around $530-$660 million) and plans to build three more vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS.
"We do not have port infrastructure for aircraft carriers, but we plan to build it [for Mistral type ships]," Popovkin said. "If we reach an agreement [with France], we'll do everything, if not, we won't."
Popovkin also said Russian Kamov helicopters (Ka-52, Ka-226) will be based on Mistral ship, if the country decides to go ahead with the purchase.
He noted that Russia wanted to buy only one ship and build three more under French license in Russian shipyards, while France planned to sell two vessels and license the construction of the remaining two.
Many Russian military and industry experts have questioned the financial and military advantages of the purchase, but Popovkin disagrees that the Mistral would be useless for the Russian Navy.
Russia has at least four islands in the Pacific Ocean which are still disputed with Japan as well as the Kaliningrad exclave surrounded by NATO countries. If these regions come under threat, Mistrals could be used to transfer military forces to the conflict zones, he said.
The future of the deal is still unclear because France is unlikely to agree to transferring sensitive technology that Russia could use in potential conflicts with NATO and its allies.
Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) Ruslan Pukhov said on Wednesday that France would never sell the Mistral with its naval tactical data system SENIT 9 because it provides links to NATO data exchange formats.
"This system could not be sold because it contains software which allows the control of NATO military forces," Pukhov said, adding that Russia would most likely have to install its own electronic equipment on the Mistral ships.
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