13:59 GMT +319 November 2019
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    Second Mistral helicopter carrier floated out in France

    France Could Be Forced to Sell Mistrals at a Massive Discount

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    Paris is finding it hard to navigate through treacherous waters it has found itself in after terminating a deal for the delivery of two Mistrals to Russia. The new chapter in a seemingly endless saga sees France trying to save state funds since it has already lost its face as a reliable arms dealer.

    For the French leadership the next step is obvious: the two helicopter carriers must be sold to another country as soon as possible.

    In the last few day authorities tried to put a positive spin on the issue. President Francois Hollande claimed that finding buyers would not be difficult. In fact, if Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is to be trusted, several countries have already expressed their interest in purchasing the watercraft. However, not a single country has made an open bid for the ships so far.

    Many experts doubt that France will be able to disperse the Mistrals promptly. "Selling someone ships these days is extremely difficult," IHS Jane's senior analyst of defense procurement Ben Moores told AFP.

    The only real option France has is to offer a massive discount for the Mistrals. "They will have to seriously cut their price to make it attractive to another country," Moores added. And even in this case the deal, according to the expert, "could take years."

    IHS Jane's named 13 nations as potential buyers. Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey and Venezuela have the means and the need for the amphibious assault ships, the defense consultancy believes.

    The majority of these countries have a ship building industry capable of manufacturing an amphib.

    Those contemplating the purchase should keep in mind that the two helicopter carries were built to meet the specific needs of the Russian Navy. Their de-customization will be a lengthy and expensive endeavor. The French daily Les Echos quoted an expert as saying that the process could cost up to 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion).

    Mistral assault ships. file photo
    © AFP 2019 / JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD
    Mistral assault ships. file photo

    On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande confirmed that they had arrived at a decision to terminate the $1.3 billion deal inked in 2011.

    The agreement was suspended in late 2014 over Moscow's alleged involvement in the Ukrainian civil war. The Kremlin has repeatedly said Russia is not a party to the deadly conflict and pushed for peace in the war-torn nation.

    Paris is reported to have transferred some 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to a Russian bank as compensation for the non-delivery.

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    Tags:
    France, arms deal, helicopter carrier, amphibious assault ship, Mistral, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Francois Hollande
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