Tag Archives: STX

Done Deal

Mistral Contract Signing

The deal for the first two Mistrals, that is.  With President Medvedev looking on, Rosoboroneksport’s Anatoliy Isaykin and DCNS’ Patrick Bouasie signed the contract at the Petersburg International Economic Forum.  RIA Novosti quoted Isaykin on the €1.2 billion price.  Work can begin after the Russians pay an advance (Versii.com repeated a rumor that the French wanted 80 percent prepayment). 

RIA Novosti also noted Isaykin saying the Russian Mistrals will be identical to French units except they’ll have reinforced hulls and flight decks to handle Russia’s northern waters, and its heavier helicopters.  Isaykin said Russia has an option for two more Mistrals to be built in Russia.  But it’s up to the Defense Ministry to get money for them in the Gosoboronzakaz.

ITAR-TASS made the point that the Senit 9 tactical command and control system, and its documentation, are part of the just-inked deal.  OSK General Director Roman Trotsenko told Rossiya-24, “The French side has gone to an unprecedented level of technology transfer and is transferring technologies, including the programming source codes for battle information-management systems, communications systems.”

Kommersant reported the first Russian unit is expected in 36 months, the second in 48, or 2014 and 2015 respectively.   It cited Trotsenko on Russia contributing up to 40 percent of the work on the two ships to be built at STX in Saint-Nazaire.

While the Mistrals will come with French electronics, the Russians will have the task of outfitting the ships with their own weapons, helicopters, amphibious assault craft, and other systems.

Radio Svoboda asked for some thoughts about the occasion.  NVO’s Viktor Litovkin opined that these expeditionary warfare ships don’t make much sense under Russia’s current military doctrine or in the context of defending the Kurils.  Pavel Felgengauer said the Mistrals may be appropriate for fighting enemies with weak air and naval forces, but Russia’s leadership hasn’t specified who they might be.  Viktor Alksnis complained that they are another stake in the heart of Russia’s dying OPK.  He calls for Russia to modernize its own arms production base instead of buying abroad.  He also fears the French could put an “off switch” in the ships’ C2 systems, effectively turning them into “target barges.”

Aleksandr Golts supports the deal because Russian shipbuilders will participate and get new technologies, but he also because he favors the emphasis on force projection rather than the Navy’s pro-SSBN mission.

Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy made some appropriately effusive comments about the capabilities and prospects for employing the Mistrals.

Mistral in Piter (photo: Izvestiya)

Defense Minister Serdyukov was less willing to elaborate saying:

“Let’s build them first, and then we’ll think about where to deploy them.  We have plans to employ them, when they’re closer to ready we’ll disclose them.”

In Moskovskiy komsomolets, Olga Bozhyeva writes that the Mistral deal does several things for Moscow.  An arms sale like this implies a level of acceptance by Europe, it divides old and new Europeans, and it serves as a wedge between the U.S. and its European allies.  She notes that Russian military leaders have kept pretty quiet about Mistral.  And Bozhyeva concludes, overall, it’s a bad deal for Russia.  It’s a high price tag for something that’s not a priority for the fleet.  Its missions are not well thought out.  A relatively old system like Senit 9 won’t help Russia catch up very much.  And Russia didn’t seriously consider Dutch, Spanish, or South Korean shipyards to drive the French price down, but:

“. . . we would have to exclude a certain corruption component, which, in the opinion of many experts, is included in the Russo-French contract (but it’s better to leave this subject to the procuracy).”

As is often the case, Nezavisimaya gazeta sums it all up best:

“The Glavkom [CINC] ought to specify the countries on which our Navy intend to ‘project the power’ of the LHD.  Judging by the fact that it’s intended to deploy the first two ships in the Pacific Fleet, for the defense of the Kuril Islands (can it really be that someone intends to attack them?), then Japan—ally of the U.S., China—our strategic partner or North and South Korea could be the object of this projection.  Again with Seoul it’s somehow uncomfortable.  It’s also an ally of Washington.  And don’t mention projecting power on Pyongyang, apparently, even the Americans aren’t risking doing this.”

“And not everything’s clear with our deck-based aviation for ‘Mistral.’  Our attack helicopters, Mi-24, Mi-28N, Ka-52, and naval Ka-27, Ka-28, Ka-31 are bigger (higher) in their dimensions than French ones, so it’s necessary to redesign the LHD’s hangar deck for them.  This means extra expenditures of financial resources, as well as a change of extremely weak armament for this ship.  Including even air defense.  There are also other problems.  Like the construction of a shore base for the deployment of ‘Mistrals’ on the country’s eastern shore, on the Pacific Ocean.  It still isn’t there.  But to keep such a huge hull tied up at anchor in Petr Velikiy Gulf or in other Far Eastern bays, like it was with domestic Proyekt 1123 class helicopter carriers ‘Moskva’ and ‘Leningrad,’ means to expend their service life in vain and kill it without reason.”

“In a word, the French LHDs, which should enter our Navy’s inventory in 2014 and 2015, could be not a reinforcement of our groupings of ships, which, by the way, also still need to be built up, but a headache for Russian admirals.”

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More on Mistral

Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy published an informative piece on Monday.

He says the announced deal for the first two Mistral helicopter carriers, built in France, includes spare parts and training for a grand total of €1.3 billion (52 billion rubles).  The deal reportedly includes the option to build two more units in a Russian shipyard.  While the deal’s sealed, the final contract is still being worked between France’s DCNS and Russia’s OSK.

Nikolskiy said the Elysee website said the Mistral package would provide 4 years of work for 1,000 French shipbuilders (5 million man-hours) at STX in Saint-Nazaire.

Paris is selling Moscow the SENIT 9 combat information system aboard Mistral, but apparently without license rights.

The contract for unit one is worth €700 million, and €600 million for unit two.

OSK maintains Russia will get a 20 percent share of the work on unit one, fabricating some sections for the ship in Russia.  Its share of the work on the second unit could be more, according to analyst Mikhail Barabanov.

An OSK representative told Nikolskiy the main goal of this deal is to get modern technology, and a possible Russian builder for the optional units hasn’t been determined.

Nikolskiy juxtaposes two views on Russia’s need for Mistral.  He quotes Barabanov:

“Why does the Russian Navy need this ship which was designed for the French Navy’s overseas expeditions?”

And he repeats General Staff Chief Makarov’s statement from June that the first Mistral will go to the Pacific Fleet to transport forces where they might be needed, particularly the Kuril Islands.

As post-script, Nikolskiy gives a snapshot of what 52 billion rubles for two Mistrals could buy:

  • 2 Borey-class (proyekt 955) SSBNs, or
  • 3 proyekt 11356 frigates (Talwar– / Krivak IV-class), or
  • 50 Su-30 fighters, or
  • 800 T-90 tanks, or
  • 50,000 apartments for servicemen.

Of course, you can generally double these alternative purchases if Russia builds a third and fourth Mistral.

Is the Helicopter Carrier Tender for Real?

Speaking in Yerevan today, Defense Minister Serdyukov told journalists:

“We have announced an international tender for construction of a helicopter-carrying ship.”

He indicated Russia is talking about two ships.  He also welcomed the French builders of the Mistral to join in the tender.

The tender will take place next month, and the winning bid will be selected before year’s end.

After months of negotiations with France on building Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, the Russians couldn’t reach agreement on the terms of a deal.

The two sides may have agreed on building two ships in France’s STX shipyard.  French President Sarkozy told its workers last month they’d be building two ships with the Russians.

Maybe the Russians wanted to buy one and build three, but Serdyukov says the international tender is for two ships, so it seems likely Paris and Moscow had agreed on a ‘2+2’ formula.  So something else is probably the sticking point.

RIA Novosti suggests talks with Paris stalled over its unwillingness to sell Moscow the NATO standard tactical communications system aboard Mistral, according to an unnamed expert who spoke to Ouest-France.

The expert said the comms system is tied to the SENIT 9 tactical combat information system.  It’s described as an important node NATO isn’t prepared to share with Russia.  The French expert says the Russians “don’t have a very good command of military computers and are trying to fill the gap.” 

Officially, the Elysee says negotiations with Russia continue, it’s confident of a successful outcome, and it isn’t worried about the Russian tender.  It hasn’t commented on participating in it either.  Meanwhile, the French media claims Moscow has stopped its exclusive talks with Paris.

Tender for Helicopter Carriers May Just Be Formality

Mistral Schematic

Kommersant reports today that United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) has gotten the Defense Ministry’s permission to hold an open tender for procurement of helicopter carriers.  The paper concludes the Defense Ministry is refraining from a sole-source purchase of the French Mistral, and will consider similar proposals from OSK’s shipyards.  But the military [at least some military officials] haven’t hidden the fact that they prefer Mistral [but Defense Minister Serdyukov has always maintained they’ve been talking to other suppliers], so the tender could just be a formality. 

OSK President Roman Trotsenko says a special commission from the Ministry of Industry and Trade will conduct the tender, but details are sketchy.  A Defense Ministry source told Kommersant that, without a tender, a deal to buy a helicopter carrier [presumably Mistral] would be considered illegal.  So there won’t be a sole-source buy despite a year of government-to-government talks.

The paper reminds readers of OSK’s recent unsuccessful antimonopoly complaint in regard to the government’s consideration of Mistral.  Although the complaint was not reviewed, it must have had some impact on the decision to compete the helicopter carrier purchase.  Kommersant sources say OSK Board Chairman Igor Sechin also had something to do with it.

Trotsenko says far east shipbuilding plant ‘Zvezda,’ Petersburg’s ‘Admiralty Wharves,’ and Kaliningrad’s ‘Yantar’ will bid for the ships.  ‘Zvezda’ already has a joint venture in place with South Korea’s Daewoo – builder of the Dokdo helicopter carrier.  The OSK President says ‘Admiralty’ and ‘Yantar’ might work with ‘Northern’ shipyard or a foreign builder. 

Kommersant has a letter sent from Sechin to Prime Minister Putin this spring saying not only is Dokdo an alternative to Mistral, but Dutch and Spanish helicopter carriers are as well.

Trotsenko says OSK yards can build a helicopter carrier in 30 months for $500-700 million against a Mistral pricetag of €420-680 million.

Kommersant concludes the tender won’t end the conflict between OSK and the Defense Ministry.  Mistral will remain the latter’s priority.  The paper’s sources don’t know if the military wants to buy Mistral itself or place an order for a new unit in a French shipyard (STX).  OSK hasn’t been able to arrange a cooperative agreement with STX.

Mezhprombank-controlled ‘Northern’ and ‘Baltic’ shipyards will participate in the tender according to a representative of the bank. Kommersant’s sources think Mezhprombank, its owner Sergey Pugachev, and shipyards are the favorites among Russian contenders.  Pugachev was an early supporter of buying French, then building other units in his shipyards.  And, according to Kommersant, the Defense Ministry supports Pugachev.

Alongside Pugachev and Mezhprombank, OSK feels its chances to win the tender aren’t great.  Moscow Defense Brief analyst Mikhail Barabanov also says Mezhprombank yards are the favorites to build Mistral in Russia.  Such a deal’s been reached at a political level between Paris and Moscow, so the tender might just be a formality.  CAST’s Konstantin Makiyenko agrees.  But he thinks Mistral orders will go to ‘Baltic,’ since ‘Northern’ is loaded with frigate and corvette orders.  Meanwhile, OSK would like to buy both yards from Mezhprombank, but the sides haven’t reached agreement on a price.