LANGKAWI (Malaysia), March 29 (RIA Novosti) – Russia should not build a second pair of French-designed Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, as Russian shipbuilders are capable of designing and building their own vessels of this type, a senior defense industry official said on Friday.
“The United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) will welcome the decision to limit the construction of Mistral-class ships to two [in France], because it is not a political issue anymore but rather an issue of the future development of domestic [shipbuilding] enterprises,” USC vice president Igor Zakharov said at the LIMA-2013 arms show in Malaysia.
Zakharov said the design and construction of ships similar to the Mistral, as well as new aircraft carriers, would not be an impossible task for Russian shipbuilders.
“This task is not an unsurpassable barrier for us. If the Russian Navy needs amphibious assault vessels we will build them,” the official said.
Russia and France clinched a 1.2-billion euro deal for two French-built Mistral vessels in June 2011.
The two ships, the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol, are being built at the STX shipyard in St. Nazaire.
Meanwhile, Russia has postponed making a decision on the planned construction of two additional Mistral-class ships under French license to 2016, citing the need to assess the ships’ performance, role and status as part of the Russian Navy.
The Mistral deal came under fire from senior Russian officials last month, following the dismissal late last year of former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who had actively lobbied for their purchase.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who supervises Russia’s defense industry, said in January that the ships were unsuitable for Russia as they were incapable of operating in cold weather conditions, while the Military Industrial Commission's deputy head Ivan Kharchenko said the Mistral deal was “absurd,” as it had harmed the development of the Russian shipbuilding industry.
A Mistral-class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles and 450 troops.
The French-built ships are expected to be assigned to Russia’s Pacific Fleet.
According to USC officials, Russia gained experience in the construction of similar ships during the Soviet era, such as the Ivan Rogov-class military transport ships.
Russia built three Ivan Rogov-class amphibious transport ships during the Soviet era. One of them, the Mitrofan Moskalenko, is still in service with the Russian Navy but has been put on a Defense Ministry list of assets for sale.
An Ivan Rogov-class ship can carry a reinforced naval infantry battalion landing team with all its combat vehicles, plus 10 PT-76 light amphibious tanks. Its flight deck can accommodate four Ka-27 or Ka-29 naval helicopters.