Russia to purchase two helicopter carriers from France
Russia is to purchase two helicopter carriers from France for 1.2 billion dollars in a deal that will substantially strengthen Moscow's naval capacity, according to media reports Friday.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the signing of the contract, which had been under discussion with Paris for more than two years, at an international investment conference in the Baltic Sea port of St Petersburg, DPA reported.
Russia had initially planned to purchase four French-designed Mistral class aircraft and troop transporters for a reported price tag of more than 3 billion dollars.
Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in late May their governments had agreed in principle on the arms deal.
Roman Trotsenko, who heads the Russian shipbuilding company responsible for fitting out the two warships, told the Interfax news agency that France had sealed the deal by agreeing to give Moscow access to its cutting-edge military technologies.
"The French side agreed to an unprecedented level of cooperation on technologies and is transferring those technologies, among them the control codes for military communications systems," Trotsenko told broadcaster Russia-24.
The technology transfer will allow the Russian Navy to operate the same SENIT-9 tactical information system used by France, he said.
Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, commander of Russia's naval forces, said the ships could be used with the Pacific Fleet as central combat vessel for new, modern task forces.
The Mistral class is a category of transport and attack warship typically loaded with 16 helicopters, 450 troops, and assault boats.
The Ka-52 attack helicopter, Moscow's most modern helicopter gunship, will be the main aircraft operated off the carriers, Interfax reported.
Russia currently operates a single aircraft carrier, built in the 1980s.
Once completed, the Mistral carrier sale to Russia would be the largest arms transfer to Moscow from a western nation since World War II.