MOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is putting back the launch of a project to build two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships under French license from 2013 to 2016, a Defense Ministry source said on Friday.
“The Russian Defense Ministry is not abandoning plans to build two Mistral-class ships in Russia but is postponing the start of the construction work from 2013 to 2016,” the source said.
The reason for that is the need to assess the ships’ performance, role and status as part of the Russian Navy, he said.
“It is essential, first, to understand what is required to ensure their effective operation and technical servicing.”
It may also be necessary to modify the ship’s design, introduce new elements and mechanisms taking into account Russian specifics and basing conditions, the source said.
Russia's United Shipbuilding Corporation said earlier in the day the contract to build two Mistral ships is in force, dismissing media reports that the country’s Defense Ministry had dropped the construction plans.
“We have not been informed of any such decision by the Russian Defense Ministry. Currently, the contract remains in force, as before,” a spokesman for Russia's United Shipbuilding Corporation said.
The spokesman also confirmed that the construction of the first two Mistral ships in France will be continued.
Russian business daily Vedomosti on Friday cited a government source saying that the Defense Ministry has decided to abandon plans to build two Mistral class amphibious assault ships under French license in Russia.
Russia and France signed a $1.2-billion contract for two French-built Mistral class ships, including the transfer of sensitive technology, in June 2011.
The first ship, the Vladivostok, is being built at a DCNS shipyard in Saint-Nazaire and should be delivered in 2014, while the second, the Sevastopol, is scheduled for delivery in 2015.
Two more ships were expected to be 80 percent built in Russia, 20 percent in France.
A Mistral-class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles, and 450 personnel.
The French-built ships are expected to be assigned to Russia’s Pacific Fleet.