Mistral contract should be signed at Euronaval show - Russian Navy commander
MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's contract to buy Mistral class helicopter carriers from France should be signed in Paris at the Euronaval 2010 defense show in October or Russia may lag behind in the ship building industry, Russian Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said.
Originally Russia was negotiating the purchase of one French-built Mistral class amphibious assault ship and planned to build three more vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS. But earlier this year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said talks were underway on the 2+2 scheme, under which Russia will buy two ships from France, and build a further two under license in Russia.
"I hope Russian and French specialists will draft the Mistral contract by the start of the Euronaval event," Vysotsky said.
"If we do not sign a contract on the Mistral, we will greatly lag behind in the speed and rate of our construction of such ships," the Navy commander said.
According to French media, a Mistral costs 400 million - 500 million euros ($522mln-653mln).
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.
The Russian military says it plans to use Mistral ships in its Northern and Pacific fleets.
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.
In April, the head of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, Mikhail Dmitriyev, said the Mistral deal would be concluded by the end of the year.
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