France, Russia to build 4 helicopter ships

Jan. 26, 2011 at 10:42 AM

SAINT-NAZAIRE, France, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Russia and France have agreed to build four helicopter carriers for the Russian navy, European media reports said.

The pact was signed Tuesday by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and French Defense Minister Alain Juppe, RIA Novosti said.

The first two Mistral-class ships will be constructed at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, and the third and fourth at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg.

Anatoly Saikin, head of Russia's arms export company, said the agreement is just a framework that does not specify the cost or deadlines.

A Russian Defense Ministry source has said the first carrier, costing nearly $1 billion, is expected to be built in late 2013. A Mistral-class vessel can carry 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles and 450 personnel.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, formerly occupied by the Soviet Union, have expressed concern about the deal, Radio France Internationale reported. Cables released by WikiLeaks state that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also raised the issued when visiting Paris last year.

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