Russia has finally decided to purchase two Mistral helicopter carriers from France in the total amount of 1.37 billion euros. It is not the first time when Russia concludes defense deals with France. However, the Mistral deal is the largest one in Russia's recent history when Russia purchased military hardware from a foreign state.
Mistral is quite a large vessel. Its tonnage measures 21,000 tons, its length makes up 210 meters. The ship is capable of developing the speed of over 18 knots (up to 35 km/h) with the cruising endurance of 37,000 kilometers. One Mistral can carry 16 helicopters. The crew totals 390 people. In addition, the vessel can carry up to 900 commandos, up to 40 armored vehicles or up to 70 cars.
Russia's high-ranking officials did not give any clear explanation to purchasing such vessels. It was only said that Russia needed the vessels with innovative technologies, because the country could not make such ships itself. Does Russia really need French Mistrals? Pravda.Ru asked expert opinion from the first vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Konstantin Sivkov.
"There are actually no tasks, which foreign vessels would be executing within the structure of the Russian navy. Any vessel must be built in the system of armed forces and navy and have one specific purpose. One may say that there is no need in Mistral from this point of view. The Mistral is first and foremost designed for long-distance expeditionary missions and landing operations. This brings up a question of where to? The answer is clear with the French. They have interests in tropical Africa, and they built such vessels to defend their colonial policies in third world countries. What kind of colonies is Russia going to conquer?
Are we going to land in Latin America? The only direction, where Mistrals could be used, is Georgia, although isn't that too much attention to the small Georgia? Even if an armed conflict with Georgia occurs, such a large and poorly equipped vessel as Mistral is not good enough, taking into consideration the size of the Black Sea. Russia already has six commando ships, classes 775 and 1171, and they cope with their tasks perfectly.
"We are being told that the biggest advantage of the French boat is the ability to carry 16 helicopters. However, Russia's Moskva and Leningrad submarine hunters could carry 25 helicopters each. In addition, Russia does not have the required infrastructure to service the Mistral, and it will have to be built from the very start, which stipulates considerable investments.
"There is another aspect. With this purchase, Russia gives a signal to its former defense partners meaning that Russia has acknowledged the predominance of its former competitor on the arms market - France. Other countries will too show interest in French defense technologies. Therefore, the Mistral is like a Trojan horse for Russia.
"As for innovative technologies, which are supposedly used in the construction of the ship, there is probably only one, which I would like to mention. The aviation fuel pipeline comes near the cook house! This is quite an innovation indeed. To put it in a nutshell, the Mistral designers created quite a flammable ship.
"Moreover, purchasing Mistral, Russia finds itself dependent on Western technologies. Take a look at Venezuela that was purchasing F-16 fighters from the United States. When the ties between the two countries ruined, Washington refused to supply spare parts to Caracas, and the planes quickly came out of order. Iraq in 1991 is also a good example. Baghdad was defeated so quickly because Iraq was trying to defend itself with the help of American and French weaponry. All of those systems were deactivated via satellite prior to the start of the operation.
"One should also say that Western experts are presumably negative in their assessments of the French Mistral. France has never sold any Mistrals to any other country, so Russia is going to be the first on the list. Australia was considering an opportunity of purchasing them, but the initiative never materialized because of low combat qualities of the ship. The air defense equipment of the vessel is very weak. The system actually consists of a couple of antiaircraft guns, which is obviously not enough for such a bulky and vulnerable ship. One or two bombs can easily destroy it. Installing Russian sea-based air defense systems on the French boat is very difficult because of the construction of the vessel. The Mistral was originally designed for navigation in warm tropical waters. In Russia, the situation is different - even the waves are different.
"If somebody tells you that Russia can not build state-of-the-art combat ships - this person is wrong. The same goes to the drones, which Russia supposedly can't build and prefers to purchase from Israel. As for the drones, Russia can build high quality products like that. As for combat vessels, Russia can build even first class vessels including heavy cruisers and aircraft carriers. For some reason, though, Russia builds such ships for China and India.
"One Mistral will cost Russia from 520 to 700 million euros. The production of a Russian helicopter carrier would cost not more than 150 million euros. Russia somehow chooses to support someone else's ship-building industry. Is there corruption involved?"