Mistral-class amphibious assault ship

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Mistral
BPC Dixmude (L9015) in Jounieh bay, Lebanon 2012.
Class overview
Name: Mistral
Builders: STX Europe[1]
DCNS[1]
Admiralty Shipyard
Operators:  Marine Nationale
 Russian Navy (future)
Preceded by: Foudre
Cost: €451.6m[2] (FY 2012) (~US$600m)
In commission: December 2005 – present
Building: 2: Vladivostok, laid down for Russia in February 2012; Sevastopol, laid down for Russia in June 2013
Planned: 5–7
Completed: 4
Active: Mistral, Tonnerre, Dixmude
General characteristics
Type: Landing helicopter dock
Displacement: 16,500 tonnes (empty)
21,300 tonnes (full load)
Length: 199 m (653 ft)
Beam: 32 m (105 ft)
Draught: 6.3 m (21 ft)
Installed power: 3 Wärtsilä diesel-alternators 16 V32 (6.2 MW) + 1 Wärtsilä Vaasa auxiliary diesel-alternator 18V200 (3 MW)
Propulsion: 2 Rolls-Royce Mermaid azimuth thrusters (2 × 7 MW), 2 five-bladed propellers
Speed: 18.8 knots (35 km/h)
Range: 10,800 km (5,800 nmi) at 18 knots (33 km/h)
19,800 kilometres (10,700 nmi) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
4 CTM (chaland de transport de matériel)
alternatively, 2 LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushion)
Capacity: 59 vehicles (including 13 AMX-56 Leclerc tanks) or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion
Troops: 900 (short duration)
450 (long durations)
150 (serving as operational headquarters)
Complement: 20 officers, 80 petty officers, 60 quarter-masters
Sensors and
processing systems:
DRBN-38A Decca Bridgemaster E250 navigation radar
MRR3D-NG air/surface sentry radar
2 optronic fire control systems
Armament: 2 × Simbad systems
4 × 12.7 mm M2-HB Browning machine guns
Aircraft carried: 16 heavy or 35 light helicopters
Aviation facilities: 6 helicopter landing spots

The Mistral class is a class of three amphibious assault ships, also known as a helicopter carrier, of the French Navy and Russian Navy. Referred to as "projection and command ships" (French: bâtiments de projection et de commandement or BPC), a Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 NH90 or Tiger helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 AMX-56 Leclerc tanks, or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion,[3] and 450 soldiers. The ships are equipped with a 69-bed hospital, and are capable of serving as part of a NATO Response Force, or with United Nations or European Union peace-keeping forces.

Three ships of the class are in service in the French Navy: Mistral, Tonnerre, and Dixmude. A deal for two ships for the Russian Navy was announced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 24 December 2010,[4] and signed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and French Defence Minister Alain Juppé in the presence of Sarkozy on 25 January 2011.[5]

History[edit]

French doctrine of amphibious operations in 1997[edit]

In 1997, the DCN started a study for a multi-purpose intervention ship (bâtiment d’intervention polyvalent or BIP). At the same time, the French doctrine of amphibious operations was evolving and being defined as the CNOA (French: Concept national des opérations amphibies, "National design for amphibious operations").[6] The BIP was to renew and increase the amphibious capabilities of the French Navy, which at the time consisted of two Foudre-class and two Ouragan-class landing platform docks.

The CNOA was to assert the French Navy's capability to perform amphibious assaults, withdrawals, demonstrations, and raids. This would allow the French Navy to further integrate into the doctrinal frameworks described by NATO's Allied Tactical Publication n° 8B (ATP8) and the European Amphibious Initiative. While the CNOA made air capabilities a priority, it also recommended an increase in the number of vehicles and personnel that could be transported and deployed;[7] the CNOA fixed the aim to project a force comprising four combat companies (1,400 men, 280 vehicles, and 30 helicopters) for ten days, in a 100 kilometre-deep sector; this force should be able to intervene either anywhere within 5000 kilometres of the French metropole, or in support of French oversea territories or allies.[6] As well as joint operations with NATO and EU forces, any proposed ship had to be capable of inter-service operations with the Troupes de Marine brigades of the French Army.[8]

Evolution of the concept[edit]

The studies for a multi-purpose intervention ship (French: bâtiment d’intervention polyvalent, BIP) began during a time where the defence industries were preparing to undergo restructuring and integration. The BIP was intended to be a modular, scalable design that could be made available to the various European Union nations and constructed cooperatively, but political issues relating to employment and repartition of contracts caused the integration of the European nations with naval engineering expertise to fail, and saw the BIP project revert to a solely French concern.[citation needed]

In 1997, a series of common ship designs referred to as nouveau transport de chalands de débarquement (NTCD), loosely based on the aborted PH 75 nuclear helicopter carrier, were revealed. The largest of these was BIP-19, which later became the basis of the Mistral class. The BIP-19 design included a 190 metres (620 ft) long flush deck, with a 26.5-metre (87 ft) beam, a draught of 6.5 metres (21 ft), and a displacement of 19,000 tonnes; dimensions which exceeded the requirements of the NTCD concept. Three smaller ship designs were also revealed, based on scaled-down versions of the BIP-19 design and with a common beam of 23 metres (75 ft): BIP-13 (13,000 tonnes, 151 metres (495 ft)), BIP-10 (10,000 tonnes, 125 metres (410 ft)), and BIP-8 (8,000 tonnes, 102 metres (335 ft)). BIP-8 incorporated features of the Italian San Giorgio-class amphibious transports, but included a helicopter hangar.

Landing craft Sabre

At the design stage, the NTCD concept featured an aircraft lift on the port side (like the Tarawa class), another on the starboard side, one in the centre of the flight deck, and one in front of the island superstructure. These were later reduced in number and relocated: a main lift towards the aft of the ship was originally located to starboard but then moved to centre, and an auxiliary lift behind the island superstructure.[9] Concept drawings and descriptions created by Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN), one of the two shipbuilders involved in the project, showed several aircraft carrier-like features, including a ski-jump ramp for STOBAR aircraft (allowing the operation of AV-8B Harrier II and F-35 Lightning II-B aircraft), four or five helicopter landing spots (including one strengthened to accommodate V-22 Osprey or CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters), and a well deck capable of accommodating a Sabre class landing craft, or 2 LCAC hovercraft.[10] A review by the French Senate concluded that STOBAR aircraft were outside the scope of the CNOA, requiring the modification of the design.[11]

The NTCD was renamed into Porte-hélicoptères d’intervention (PHI, for "intervention helicopter carrier") in December 2001, before being eventually named Bâtiment de projection et de commandement (BPC) to emphasise the amphibious and command aspects of the concept.[12]

Design and construction[edit]

At Euronaval 1998, the French confirmed that they were planning to construct a series of vessels based on the BIP-19 concept. However, construction of two ships, Mistral and Tonnerre, was not received until 8 December 2000. A contract for construction was published on 22 December, and after receiving approval from the public purchase authority (Union des groupements d’achats publics, UGAP) on 13 July 2001, was awarded to Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN) and Chantiers de l'Atlantique at the end of July. An engineering design team was established at Saint-Nazaire in September 2001, and following consultation between DCA and the Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (General Delegation for Ordnance, DGA) began to study and adapt the BIP-19 design. In parallel, the general concept was being refined by DGA, DCN, the Chief of the Defence Staff and Chantiers de l'Atlantique. During the design and validation process, a 1/120th scale model was constructed and tested in a wind tunnel, revealing that in strong crosswinds, the height of the ship and elongated superstructures created turbulence along the flight deck. The design was altered to minimise these effects and provide better conditions for helicopter operations.[13]

The ships were to be constructed at various locations in two major and several minor components, which would be united on completion. DCN, which was designated the head of construction and made responsible for 60% of the value of construction and 55% of the work time, assembled the engines in Lorient, combat systems in Toulon, and the rear half of the ship, including the island superstructure in Brest. STX Europe, a subsidiary of STX Shipbuilding of South Korea, constructed the forward halves of each ship in Saint-Nazaire, and was responsible for transporting them to DCN's shipyard in Brest for the final assembly.[1] Other companies were involved in the construction: some of the construction work was outsourced to Stocznia Remontowa de Gdańsk, while Thales provided the radars and communications systems. It was predicted that each ship would take 34 months to complete, with design and construction for both ships costing 685 million Euros (approximately the same cost for a single ship based on HMS Ocean or USS San Antonio, and approximately the same cost as the preceding Foudre-class amphibious ships, which displaced half the tonnage of the Mistral-class ships and took 46.5 months to complete).[14]

Starting from Dixmude, the rest of the French Mistrals and the first two of the Russian Mistrals will all be built in Saint-Nazaire by STX France, which is jointly owned by STX Europe, Alstom and the French government, with STX Europe having the majority stake. DCNS will provide the ship's combat system.[1]

DCN laid the aft keels for both ships in 2002; Mistral on 9 July, and Tonnerre on 13 December.[15] Chantiers de l'Atlantique laid the keel of the forwards part of Mistral on 28 January 2003, and of Tonnerre later.[when?] The first block of the rear of Tonnerre was put in a dry dock on 26 August 2003, and that of Mistral on 23 October 2003. The two aft sections were assembled side by side in the same drydock. The forward section of Mistral left Saint-Nazaire under tow on 16 July 2004, and arrived in Brest on 19 July 2004. On 30 July, the combination of the two halves through a process similar to jumboisation began in dock no. 9. Tonnerre’s forward section arrived in Brest on 2 May 2005, and underwent the same procedure.

Mistral shortly after launching

Mistral was launched on schedule on 6 October 2004, while Tonnerre was launched on 26 July 2005.[16] Delivery of the ships were scheduled for late 2005 and early 2006 respectively, but was postponed for over a year because of problems with the SENIT 9 sensor system and deterioration to the linoleum floors of the forwards sections. They were commissioned into the French Navy on 15 December 2006 and 1 August 2007, respectively.[16]

The French Livre Blanc sur la Défense et la Sécurité nationale 2008 (White Paper on Defence and National Security), a policy-defining document for matters of defence, forecast that two more BPCs would be in service with the French Navy by 2020.[17] A third ship was ordered in 2009, with this order being placed earlier than expected as part of the French government's response to the recession which began in 2008.[18] Her construction began on 18 April 2009 in Saint-Nazaire; due to economic constraints, the entire ship was built there.[19]

On 17 December 2009, it was announced that the third ship of this class would be named Dixmude.[20][21] It had been suggested that it might be given the historic name of Jeanne d'Arc following the decommissioning of the helicopter cruiser of that name in 2010, but the idea met opposition within some French naval circles.[22] The possibility of a 4th Mistral-class ship was officially abandoned in the 2013 French White Paper on Defence and National Security.

Features and capabilities[edit]

Tonnerre

Based on displacement tonnage, Mistral and Tonnerre are the largest ships in the French Navy after the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, for roughly the same height above water.

Aviation[edit]

The flight deck of each ship is approximately 6,400 square metres (69,000 sq ft). The deck has six helicopter landing spots, one of which is capable of supporting a 33 tonne helicopter. The 1,800-square-metre (19,000 sq ft) hangar deck can hold 16 helicopters, and includes a maintenance area with an overhead crane. To aid launch and recovery, a DRBN-38A Decca Bridgemaster E250 landing radar and an Optical Landing System are used.

The flight deck of Mistral as seen from the island superstructure. Both lifts can be seen: the main lift at the rear of the ship, and the auxiliary lift on the extreme left of frame.

The flight and hangar decks are connected by two aircraft lifts, both capable of lifting 13 tonnes. The 225-square-metre (2,420 sq ft) main lift is located near the aft of the ship, on the centreline, and is large enough for helicopters to be moved with their rotors in flight configuration. The 120 square metres (1,300 sq ft) auxiliary lift is located aft of the island superstructure.

Every helicopter operated by the French military is capable of flying from these ships. On 8 February 2005, a Westland Lynx of the Navy and a Cougar landed at the aft of Mistral The first landing of a NH90 took place on 9 March 2006. Half of the air group of the BPCs is to be constituted of NH90s, the other half being composed of Tigre assault helicopters. On 19 April 2007, Puma, Écureuil and Panther helicopters landed on Tonnerre. On 10 May 2007, a MH-53E Sea Dragon of the US Navy landed on her reinforced helicopter spot off Norfolk.

According to Mistral’s first commanding officer, Capitaine de vaisseau Gilles Humeau, the size of the flight and hangar decks would allow the operation of up to thirty helicopters.[23]

Mistral aviation capabilities are comparable to those of the Wasp class amphibious assault ship, for a sixth the cost and crew requirements of the American ship.[24]

Amphibious transport[edit]

A U.S. Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank embarks aboard the Tonnerre off the coast of North Carolina for Composite Training Unit Exercise (7 February 2009).

Mistral-class ships can accommodate up to 450 soldiers, although this can be doubled for short-term deployments. The 2,650-square-metre (28,500 sq ft) vehicle hangar can carry a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion, or a 13-strong Leclerc tank company and 46 other vehicles. By comparison, Foudre-class ships can carry up to 100 vehicles, including 22 AMX-30 tanks in the significantly smaller 1,000-square-metre (11,000 sq ft) deck.

The 885-square-metre (9,530 sq ft) well deck can accommodate four landing craft. The ships are capable of operating two LCAC hovercraft, and although the French Navy appears to have no intention of purchasing any LCACs,[25] this capability improves the class' ability to interoperate with the United States Marine Corps and the British Royal Navy. Instead the DGA ordered eight French-designed 59-tonne EDA-R catamarans.[26]

Command and communications[edit]

The island superstructure, as seen from the flight deck

Mistral-class ships can be used as command and control ships, with a 850-square-metre (9,100 sq ft) command centre which can host up to 150 personnel. Information from the ship's sensors is centralised in the SENIT system (Système d’Exploitation Navale des Informations Tactiques, "System for Naval Usage of Tactical Information"),[27] a derivative of the US Navy's Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS). Delays in the development of the SENIT 9 revision contributed to the one-year delay in the delivery of the two ships. SENIT 9 is based around Thales' tri-dimensional MRR3D-NG Multi Role Radar, which operations on the C band and incorporates IFF capabilities. SENIT 9 can also be connected to NATO data exchange formats through Link 11, Link 16 and Link 22.

For communications, the Mistral-class ships use the SYRACUSE satellite system, based on French satellites SYRACUSE 3-A and SYRACUSE 3-B which provide 45% of the Super High Frequency secured communications of NATO. From 18 to 24 June 2007, a secure video conference was held twice a day between Tonnerre, then sailing from Brazil to South Africa, and VIP visitors of the Paris Air Show.[28]

Armament[edit]

Emplacement of the bow 30 mm Breda-Mauser, not presently installed. Another turret is planned aft.

As of 2008, the two Mistral-class ships were armed with two Simbad launchers for Mistral missiles and four 12.7 mm M2-HB Browning machine guns.[16] Two Breda-Mauser 30 mm/70 guns are also included in the design, though not installed as of 2009.

Incidents such as the near-loss of the Israeli corvette INS Hanit to a Hezbollah-fired anti-ship missile during the 2006 Lebanon War have shown the vulnerability of modern warships to asymmetric threats, with the Mistral-class ships considered under-equipped for self-defence in such a situation.[23] Consequently, Mistral and Tonnerre cannot be deployed into hostile waters without sufficient escorting ships. This problem is compounded by the small number of escort ships in the French Navy; there is a five-year gap between the decommissioning of the Suffren-class frigates and the commissioning of their replacements, the Horizon and FREMM frigates.

Following the experiences of French naval commanders during Opération Baliste, the French deployment to aid European citizens in Lebanon during the 2006 war, proposals to improve the self-defence capabilities of the two Mistral-class ships were supported by one of the French chiefs of staff, and are under active consideration as of 2008.[16][29] One suggestion is to upgrade the dual-launching, manual Simbad launchers to quadruple-launching, automatic Tetral launchers.[30]

Hospital[edit]

Each ship carries a NATO Role 3 medical facility,[31][32] i.e., equivalent to the field hospital of an Army division or army corps, or to the hospital of a 25,000-inhabitant city, complete with dentistry, diagnostics, specialist surgical and medical capabilities, food hygiene and psychological capabilities.[33] A SYRACUSE[disambiguation needed]-based telemedicine system allows performing complex specialised surgery.[34]

The 900 m² hospital[35] provides 20 rooms and 69 hospitalisation beds, of which 7 are fit for intensive care.[36] The two surgery blocks come complete with a radiology room[37] providing digital radiography and ultrasonography, and that can be fitted with a mobile CT scanner.[31]

50 medicalised beds are kept in reserve and can be installed in a helicopter hangar to extend the capacity of the hospital in case of emergency.[38]

Propulsion[edit]

Two of the Wärtsilä 16 V32 diesel alternators

Mistral and Tonnerre are the first ships of the French Navy to use azimuth thrusters. The thrusters are powered by electricity from five V32 diesel alternators, and can be oriented in any angle. This propulsion technology gives the ships significant manoeuvering capabilities, as well as freeing up space normally reserved for machinery and propellor shafts.

The long-term reliability of azimuth thrusters in military use is yet to be tested, but the technology was previously used aboard other amphibious transport ships, including the Dutch Rotterdam class and the Spanish Galicia class.

Accommodations[edit]

The space gained by the use of the azimuth thrusters allowed for the construction of accommodation areas where no pipes or machinery are visible. Located in the forward section of the ship, crew cabins aboard Mistral-class ships are comparable in comfort levels to passenger cabins aboard Chantiers de l'Atlantique-constructed cruise ships.

The fifteen officers each have an individual cabin. Senior non-commissioned officers share two-man cabins, while junior crew and embarked troops use four- or six-person cabins. Conditions in these accommodation areas are said to be better than in most barracks of the French Foreign Legion, and when United States Navy vice-admiral Mark Fitzgerald inspected one of the Mistral-class ships in May 2007, it was claimed that he would have used the same accommodation area to host a crew three times the size of Mistral’s complement.[32]

Operational history[edit]

The BPCs are certified as members of the naval component of the NATO Response Force, which allows them to take part in a Combined Joint Task Force. France provided forces to NRF-8 in January 2007, including a Commander Amphibious Task Force and 8 ships. The next contribution took place in January 2008 in NRF-10, after exercises Noble Midas which tested link 16 and the SECSAT system which operationally controls submarines. The forces can be set up in a 5 to 30 days notice.

Mistral made her maiden voyage from 21 March to 31 May 2006, cruising in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

Following the start of the 2006 Lebanon War, Mistral was one of four French ships deployed to the waters off Lebanon as part of Opération Baliste. These ships were to protect, and if necessary evacuate, French citizens in Lebanon and Israel. Mistral embarked 650 soldiers and 85 vehicles, including 5 AMX-10 RC and about 20 VABs and VBLs. Four helicopters were also loaded aboard, with another two joining the ship near Crete. During her deployment, Mistral evacuated 1,375 refugees.[39]

Tonnerre’s maiden voyage occurred between 10 April and 24 July 2007. During this voyage, Tonnerre was involved in Opération Licorne, the French co-deploying complement to the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire following the Ivorian Civil War. Gazelle and Cougar helicopters of the French Air Force operated from the ship during 9 July.

At the start of 2008, Tonnerre was involved in the Corymbe 92 mission (see Standing French Navy Deployments), a humanitarian mission in the Gulf of Guinea. During this deployment, Tonnerre acted on tip-offs from the European Maritime Analysis Operation Centre – Narcotics, and intercepted 5.7 tonnes of smuggled cocaine: 2.5 tonnes from a fishing vessel 520 kilometres (280 nmi) from Monrovia on 29 January, and 3.2 tonnes from a cargo ship 300 kilometres (160 nmi) off Conakry.

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Burma; the worst natural disaster to hit the region. Mistral, which was operating in the East Asia area at the time, loaded humanitarian aid supplies, and sailed to Burma. The ship was refused entry to the nation's ports;[40][41] the 1,000 tons of humanitarian supplies had to be unloaded in Thailand and handed over to the World Food Program.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé announced on 23 May 2011 that the French ship Tonnerre amphibious assault helicopter carrier with attack helicopters aboard would be deployed to the Libyan coast to enforce UN resolution 1973.[42]

Future developments[edit]

Export[edit]

Since 1997, and particularly since the Euronaval 2007, the Mistral type has been promoted for export. The "BPC family" comprises the BPC 140 (13,500 tonnes), the BPC 160 (16,700 tonnes) and the BPC 250 (24,542 tonnes, 214.5 metres (704 ft) long). The BPC 250 was the design from which the final Mistral-class design was derived: the reduction in length and other modifications were a price-saving exercise.[43] The BPC 250 concept was one of two designs selected for the Canberra-class amphibious warfare ships, to be constructed for the Royal Australian Navy.[43] The design finally chosen was the Spanish Buque de Proyección Estratégica-class amphibious ship.[43]

According to French daily La Tribune, the Royal Canadian Navy shows "strong interest" in buying two Mistral ships.[44] The Royal Malaysian Navy, the Swedish Navy and the South African Navy might show an interest in the ships.[citation needed] As of late 2011 the Polish Navy has been working closely with the Polish Ministry of Defense to purchase one Mistral ship. The Indian Navy has also expressed interest in the design of the Mistral type as a Multi-Role Support Vessel.[45] Brazil and Turkey could in time consider purchasing BPCs.[46] Algeria is also considering the purchase of two BPCs.[47][48]

Russian purchase[edit]

On 24 December 2010, after eight months of talks, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev approved the purchase by Rosoboronexport of two ships of the Mistral class (and an option for two more) from France for €1.37 billion (€720 millions for the 1st ship; €650 millions for the second).[49][50][51][52][53] The first Mistral-class ship is expected to be delivered in late 2014 or early 2015; Russia made an advance payment in January or February of 2011 pursuant to the January 25, 2011 memorandum of understanding between the two parties.[54] The final agreement between Russia and France has been signed on 25 January 2011.[5]

In August 2009 General Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, had suggested Russia planned to purchase one ship with the intention of later constructing three further ships in Russia. In February 2010 he said that construction of the ships would start sometime after 2015 and would be a joint effort with the French.[55] French President Nicolas Sarkozy favoured the building of the first two ships in France and only the second two in Russia.[53] According to Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies the first ship will be entirely built and assembled in France from 2013,[56] the second in France, assembled by jumboisation in Russia and delivered in 2015.[56] Two more will be built in Russia[57] by a DCNS/Russian United Shipbuilding Corporation joint-venture.[50]

On 1 November 2010 Russia's United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) and France's shipbuilders DCNS and STX France signed an agreement to form a consortium. The agreement includes a transfer of technologies and is a move that may bring a pending helicopter carrier deal closer to completion, the USC president said.[58] On 15 November the Russian defense ministry announced that the tender was closed and the winner would be named by the end of the month.[59] This announcement had still not been made by 24 December but Kommersant[60] and Defense Industry Daily[61] suggested that Daewoo Marine Shipbuilding & Engineering, Navantia, Damen Schelde, or ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems could be among the bidders.

In the United States, six Republican senators, including John McCain, complained in a letter to the French ambassador in Washington about the proposed sale[62] while Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced a resolution that would express the sense of Congress that “France and other member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union should decline to sell major weapons systems or offensive military equipment to the Russian Federation.”[63] Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates told French officials during his visit to Paris on 8 February 2010, that U.S. was “concerned” about the sale, U.S. officials accompanying him said there is little if anything the United States could do to block the deal,[64] adding that “a sale of the Mistral to the Russian Navy did not pose a major problem.”[65] The same day, the deal was granted by France's DGA. It is the first major arms deal between Russian Federation and the NATO countries if the Soviet Union's acquisition of Rolls-Royce Nene and Rolls-Royce Derwent turbojet engines in 1947 is not included.[66]

Some design changes must be implemented, like making a Russian version of Mistral compatible with Russian Ka-52 and Ka-27 helicopters. Nikolai Makarov announced that the first ship of the tender will be deployed to the Russian Pacific Fleet, and it can be used "in case of necessity" to transport troops to the Kuril Islands.[67]

NATO members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from the Baltic region have protested against the purchase. Lithuania's Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene told reporters that "[i]t's a mistake. This is a precedent, when a NATO and EU member sells offensive weaponry to a country whose democracy is not at a level that would make us feel calm."[68]

According to Russian General Staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief reason for purchasing the French design, rather than relying upon domestic producers, is that Russia would need another 10 years to develop the technologies required - an unacceptable delay.[69]

In March 2011 the deal stalled on Russian demands for sensitive NATO technologies to be included with the ships.[70] Later the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired the senior Navy official who was in charge of talks with France over the purchase.[71] On 26 May 2011 it was reported that the two nations had reached a final agreement and that it should be signed by mid June.[72]

On 17 June 2011, the two nations signed an agreement for two ships for $1.7 billion.[73]

In 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated that the ships would not be able to operate in Russia's climate[74] and that the ships require a grade of diesel fuel not produced in Russia.[75]

In 2014, an immediate arms embargo against Russia due to the actions of the Russian army in the Crimea was nixed due to the French desire for the Mistral sale to Russia to continue.[76] French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was considering cancelling the Russian deal for two Mistral-class ships in response to the Crimean referendum. This came as the United States and European Union imposed sanctions on Russian officials associated with the referendum. They are considered "phase two" economic sanctions, while cancelling the Mistral contract would be "phase three." Fabius acknowledged that the loss of the contracts would be damaging to the French economy.[77] However, the two ships could still be sold to Russia as "civilian hulls" which Russia would only arm as warships after receiving them.[78] In May 2014, Paris issued a formal guarantee to Moscow that the two ships would be built for them.[79]

Production for Russia[edit]

The first ship of the Mistral class will be built within 36 months after the first advance payment. A second ship will be built within 48 months. At the initial stage, the consortium provides for the joint construction of two ships of this type with the subsequent production of two more. Russia will fulfill 20% of the required work during construction of the first Mistral-class ship in the STX Europe shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, France.[80] The third and fourth ships will be constructed in St. Petersburg.[81] Russia plans to build new shipyards on Kotlin Island near St. Petersburg. These will be used to construct Mistral-class ships and other large civil and military vessels in the future.[82]

The first ship was laid down on 1 February 2012 and will have the name Vladivostok. The ship will join the Russian Navy within 36 months.[83] The second ship has been named as Sevastopol.

In April 2013, Russia announced that its Mistral-class ships will be based in the Far East ports at Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The ports were chosen because of their existing transport infrastructure. In the future, Russia will create conditions for a short-term base equipped for storage replenishing, loading and unloading troops, and crew rest in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Other possible bases are still being considered. It was also noted that it was more convenient to base the ships near major cities to provide housing for the crew and their families.[84]

Ships[edit]

Pennant no. Name Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
French Navy
L9013 Mistral 10 July 2003 6 October 2004 February 2006 Toulon
L9014 Tonnerre 26 August 2003 26 July 2005 December 2006 Toulon
L9015 Dixmude 18 April 2009 17 September 2010[85] 27 December 2012[86] Toulon
Russian Navy
501 Vladivostok 1 February 2013[83] 15 October 2013 [87][88] November 1, 2014 [89] Vladivostok[90] (planned)[91]
- Sevastopol 18 June 2013[92] October 2014[93] Expected 2015[94] Novorossiysk[95](planned)[91]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Mistral Construction Program". Globalsecurity.org. 
  2. ^ "Projet de loi de finances pour 2013 : Défense : équipement des forces" (in French). Senate of France. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 2013-11-07.  Dixmude cost France €451.6m at FY2012 prices
  3. ^ "BPC Mistral". netmarine.net. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Russia agrees to landmark purchase of two warships from France | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 24.12.2010". Dw-world.de. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Russia, France sign warship agreement RIA Novosti
  6. ^ a b Arnault (April 2005). "The national concept of amphibious operations". In Veyrat, Jean-Marie. Objectif Doctrine (Metz: Ministry of Defence) (36). ISSN 1267-7787. 
  7. ^ Bulletin d’études de la Marine no 33 (March 2006), p.7
  8. ^ Terre information magazine ISSN 0995-6999, no. 184 (May 2007)
  9. ^ Navy painter André Lambert
  10. ^ TCD classe NTCD
  11. ^ Avis du Sénat français no 90 du 22 novembre 2001
  12. ^ Histoire du BPC Mistral (2000 - 2006)
  13. ^ Cécile Michaut (1 June 2007). "Air streams on the water". Office National d'Etudes et de Recherches Aerospatiales. Retrieved 5 February 2010. 
  14. ^ Marines : Mistral Shows Up LPD 17, in Strategy Page (29 May 2007)
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