Russia pushes on with domestic alternative to Mistral
The Russian MoD has signed a contract worth an estimated RUB100 billion ($1.43 billion) to build two helicopter carriers for the navy, in a programme that has attracted attention at the highest levels of government in Russia, including President Vladimir Putin.
The Project 23900 amphibious assault ships would be the first vessels of their kind to be built in Russia, at the Zaliv Shipyard in Kerch in the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula. The shipyard specialises in the construction of tankers and container carriers.
The first Project 23900 ship is planned for delivery to the Russian Navy by 2026, under the state armament programme for 2018-2027. Shephard understands that the vessel will have a displacement of 25,000t and a maximum length of about 220m.
Previous official statements indicate that each ship will carry about 900 marines, up to 75 military vehicles, more than 20 heavy helicopters and up to six landing craft.
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The MoD has denied media reports that the Project 23900 vessels will be an exact copy of the French Mistral-class design that was withdrawn from sale in 2015, after the Russian annexation of Crimea the previous year.
Indeed, Russian officials and defence sector analysts claim the new vessels with carry a larger air component and stronger air-defence systems than the Mistral class.
‘The Russian military operation in Syria confirmed the importance of large landing ships with a displacement of 15,000-25,000 tonnes,’ said Russian military analyst Alexander Khrolenko.
Russia has a broad choice of shipborne helicopters suitable for deployment on the Project 23900 vessels: examples include the Ka-52K Katran combat helicopter, the Ka-27M for anti-submarine operations, the Ka-29 transport/assault helicopter and the Ka-31 for AEW.
Earlier this year, US analysts reported that the Russian Navy is also considering deployment of the successor to the Yak-141 VTOL aircraft on the Project 23900 vessels. However, an MoD spokesperson denied this to Shephard.
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