Factbox: Russia agrees to buy French helicopter carriers

MOSCOW (BestGrowthStock) – Russia has agreed to buy two helicopter carriers from a French-led consortium, the French and Russian governments said on Friday, in Moscow’s first major foreign arms purchase since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Under the long-discussed deal, the Mistral-type amphibious assault ships will be built by French shipyard companies DCNS and STX along with Russia’s state-run United Shipbuilding Corporation, known as OSK.

Some of France’s NATO allies had voiced concern, urging Paris not to sell Moscow high-tech systems that could be used against Russia’s former communist neighbors, especially since Russia’s brief 2008 war with neighboring Georgia.

Here is some background to the deal.

MISTRAL CAPABILITIES

The Mistral-class ships can carry up to 16 helicopters such as Russia’s Ka-50/52. They also carry landing barges and hovercraft, allowing vehicles, tanks and soldiers to be taken ashore — an important capability if Russia had to fight a war similar to the one it waged with Georgia in 2008.

The Mistral can carry 450 troops for up to six months, but that number can rise to 700 for shorter periods.

COASTAL CONTROL

Russia failed to gain control of Georgia’s Black Sea coast in its five-day conflict with Tbilisi. It currently depends largely on helicopters and unmanned planes to control its coastal regions on the Baltic and Black Seas. The Mistral will give Moscow much greater command of its coastlines.

FOREIGN PURCHASES

The Mistral purchase of is the first major defense import deal since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, showing Russia’s need for foreign technology in the sector. The deal was a surprise as Moscow’s defense procurement strategy to 2015 did not include construction or purchase of any large combat ships.

BOON FOR NAVAL DEFENSE INDUSTRY

One of the main sticking points in Russia’s negotiations over the Mistral is whether it will get access to the same technology used on French ships, giving Russia a glimpse of more advanced naval weapons and defense systems.

The reputation of the Russian naval defense industry had been tarnished by an Indian order of the Admiral Gorshkov heavy aircraft carrying cruiser. Moscow-based defense analysts Cast say Russia has nearly tripled the price and delayed delivery of the cruiser by four years since signing the contract in 2004.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove; editing by David Stamp)

Factbox: Russia agrees to buy French helicopter carriers