7 March 2014, 14:49

Hollande to continue cooperation with Russia, Mistral helicopter carriers to be supplied

Hollande to continue cooperation with Russia, Mistral helicopter carriers to be supplied

France continues to comply with the terms of the contract and will supply Moscow with two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, French President Francois Hollande announced. "We keep to the terms of the signed contracts. Right now we have no plans to cancel them and we hope to avoid this," Hollande said at a press conference on Friday.

The Russian JSC Rosoboronexport and the French company DCNS signed a contract to build two helicopter carriers in June 2011. The United Shipbuilding Corporation has been involved in this transaction as a subcontractor to STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire.

The first Russian Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok was put to sea March 5 and went for builders sea trials in the French port of Saint-Nazaire. The ship was floated out on October 15, 2013. The Russian navy will receive the ship this fall. After that the helicopter carrier will be equipped with weaponry.

There were multiple stages in the process of the Vladivostok’s construction. The Baltic Shipyard (part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation) had built the after body, which was then sent to Saint-Nazaire and conjoined with the fore body built by STX France shipyard.

The military department is currently updating the ships of the amphibious forces, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said earlier at a conference call. " In 2015, the Navy is going to have the Ivan Gren landing craft carrier, as well as two helicopter carriers - Vladivostok and Sevastopol,” Shoigu said.

The length of the Mistral-class carrier is 199 meters, the width - 32 meters, the depth at the flight deck - 27 meters, the draft at displacement level of 22.6 tons - 6.42 meters, the maximum speed at draft of 6.42 m - 18.5 knots, the crew - 177 people, the number of passengers - 481.

Mistral over Pacific: rebuilding Russian naval bases

The first pile of the future quay for the Vladivostok amphibious assault ship, - the Mistral-class lead ship for the Russian Navy, was driven in, in Ulysses Bay near Vladivostok, on February 11th . The lead ship is expected to be able to cast anchor there by autumn 2015, while the entire system of quays is due to be built by late 2017.

The lack of up-to-date infrastructure has been the scourge of the Russian Navy since when Russia was an Empire. The weak overhaul base of Vladivostok and Port Arthur had largely exacerbated the plight of Russia’s 1st Pacific Squadron during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. Similar overhaul problems plagued the Soviet Navy action in the Arctic Circle during the Second World War. Finally, the Soviet Navy, armed with nuclear missiles, failed to get an appropriate infrastructure during the Cold War years. The shortage of docks, properly-equipped quays, no power feeding for waterfront facilities etc. caused many ships to lie out, while using their own resource.

The first effort to improve base infrastructure on the Pacific was made at the Vilyuchinsk base, where the first Pacific submarine of the Project 955, Alexander Nevsky, is due to arrive later this year.

The Vladivostok naval base has also been brought up-to-date, with the quays almost fully rebuilt by the APEC summit, and other infrastructure elements, from warehouses to barracks, largely renovated. But the Vladivostokamphibious assault ship will be based a little farther, in Ulysses Bay.

Change in infrastructure is expected to:

1. Increase the at-sea to in-port ratio of the Fleet, which means the vessels will be out in the ocean longer than now.

2. Increase the life cycle of vessels and largely decrease the wear and tear of the ships.

3. Improve the combat training standards of the crews who will be exempt from all fatigue duties while their ship is at base, so they can focus on training and have some rest.

4. Make the Fleet’s preparation for likely combat action easier and faster.

Aside from Russia’s main naval bases in the Far East (in Vladivostok and Vilyuchinsk), Russia has built or is setting up a number of minor mooring places, for example, in Primorye Territory, on Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands. Russia is thus providing infrastructure for a likely operations theatre in case of a hypothetical war, for example, for the southern part of the Kuril archipelago. Once the bases here are updated, they will make the Pacific Fleet more effective and will provide for deploying reinforcements, for instance, from the Northern Fleet, reinforcements that could arrive by the Northern Sea Route.

No less important than the construction of quays and/or docks is the revival of auxiliary ships that should ensure the operation of combat ships at major distances from their homeports, on the assumption that foreign naval bases are unavailable. Russia is already building supply vessels, oil-tank ships, and transport ships that will hopefully ensure the operation of the Pacific Fleet in far-away seas by the time the Fleet will have got new ships.

The Vladivostok amphibious assault ship is due to become the first to reinforce the Pacific Fleet Surface Forces in 2015. The Sevastopol ship of the same class is scheduled to arrive in the Far East two years later. Russia has always had more problems with maintaining aircraft carrying ships, than building them. We can only hope that the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol will be able to change that not really great tradition.

Voice of Russia, Interfax

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