Russia’s order for the 200 metre long ‘command-and-control’ carriers is the first major purchase of NATO military hardware by the former Soviet state. However, the purchase has rattled some of Russia’s neighbours, most notably Georgia and the Baltic nations, who fear the carriers could be used against them should tensions break out. Russia previously fought a five-day war with Georgia over the breakaway state of South Ossetia in August 2008.
The Mistral class carrier is capable of carrying up to 700 combat troops, 16 helicopters and 60 armoured vehicles. “We decided everything: price, technology transfers and the calendar,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the G8 summit in Deauville, northern France.
Two of the Mistral carriers will be built in France by state-owned military contractor DCNS, while the remaining two will be built under a joint venture between European shipbuilder STX and Russia’s OAO United Shipbuilding Corporation. A final contract for the vessels is expected to be signed when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits Paris in June.
The Mistral design lost out to Navantia’s design for the RAN’s two Canberra class LHDs in 2005.