Russia will decide by the end of 2009 whether to purchase a Mistral class amphibious assault ship from France, the chief of Russia's General Staff said on Tuesday.
The Russian military earlier announced it was considering buying one of the Mistral class ships, worth 400-500 million euros (around $600-$750 mln), and potentially build three or four vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS.
"We will make a final decision on the Mistral purchase by the end of this year," Gen. Nikolai Makarov said at a news conference.
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 weapons procurement program through 2015 does not envision construction or purchases of large combat ships, so the possible acquisition of a French Mistral class ship is most likely to happen under the new program for the years up to 2020, which is still under development.
NIZHNY TAGIL (Urals), December 8 (RIA Novosti)