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Russia and France firm up Mistral deal

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mistraltwoOn December 24, the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, put on his Santa hat and beard, as it were, and called President of the French Republic Nicolas Sarkozy to tell him that Russian authorities had accepted an offer from a consortium formed by France’s DCNS and STX France and Russia’s United Shipbuilding for the construction of Mistral-type helicopter carriers.

President Sarkozy likely didn’t fall of his chair in astonishment. Back in July he’d told workers at STX France that they were going two build two of the ships for Russia. At that time he said that, though the contract hadn’t yet been signed “the decision to do it is certain.”

The deal has been in the works for a long time and has never been about whether France would enable Russia to acquire these advanced force projection ships. It has always been about the Russian Navy getting the needed funding and French shipyards getting the maximum jobs out of it.

The final result is a two-plus-two deal that will see the first two ships built jointly by the consortium at STX France’s Saint Nazaire shipyard. What OSK’s contribution will be at this stage is unclear, but it will presumably get a piece of the financial action. The second two ships will be constructed later at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg (which is President Medvedev’s home town).

According to the office of President Sarkozy, the contract will provide five million hours of work (or employment for 1,000 people for four years) for DCNS and STX France, most of it in Saint Nazaire.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency says the first Mistral-class ship is expected to be built within 36 months after Russia makes an advance payment scheduled for January 2011.

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

The Russian military has said it plans to use Mistral ships in its Northern and Pacific fleets.

December 28, 2010

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