MOSCOW, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Russia is mulling the purchase of a French-made helicopter carrier, continuing the shift away from its longtime strategy of producing its own security equipment.
"Not a single country can produce everything at the high-quality level, " Col. Gen. Nikolai Makarov, Russia's top general, was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Interfax. "Anyway, we will have to buy something (abroad)."
Accompanying Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on a trip to Mongolia, Makarov said the Russian military was in negotiations with Paris and a French shipbuilding company to buy a helicopter carrier vessel of the Mistral class -- two of which, the Mistral and the Tonnerre, are in operation with the French navy.
The mistral carriers are capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 tanks, or a 40-strong tank battalion and 450 soldiers, although troop numbers can be doubled for short-term deployment.
They are armed with two Simbad launchers for Mistral missiles and four 12.7mm M2-HB Browning machine guns. Equipped with a 69-bed hospital, the Mistral carriers are integrated into the NATO Response Force and have completed U.N. and EU-led peacekeeping missions. Several nations have in the past expressed an interest in Mistral carriers, and it now seems that Russia has joined that list.
"Before the year's end, we plan to obtain contract agreements with a French company allowing the construction and purchase of this ship," Makarov said, according to Defensenews.com. "There are no ships of this class in Russia."
After the purchase of a French-made model, Russian shipyards would then produce three or four additional carriers with the help of France, Makarov added.
One carrier, destined to join the French navy, is currently under construction at the Chantiers de Saint-Nazaire dockyard. Experts estimate its export price tag at $1 billion.
Russia has long banked on producing all of its arms -- from gun ammunition to nuclear warheads -- at home.
But the Kremlin seems to wave goodbye to the idea that one country can produce all of its weapons, especially as military budgets become tighter because of the global recession.
Earlier this year Russia bought 12 Israeli-made reconnaissance drones for $53 million.