04 December, 2014
After the August 2008 war, the Russian Admiral Vladimir Visotksy declared, “If we had a Mistral we’d land our troops on the Georgian coastline in 40 minutes instead of 48 hours.”

The Mistral issue is a kind of litmus test for the EU and the government of NATO-member France. If Paris officially transfers Mistral ships to Russia, this will encourage aggressive policy from Moscow. On the other hand, if France doesn’t deliver two Mistrals to Russia (for which Russia has
already paid France 1.2 billion EURO), Russia will of course lodge a complaint against France in International Court and demand multi-billion compensation.
Actually, the “Vladivostok,” the first type of Mistral, which has already gone through the SATs (Sea Acceptance Trials), was to be transferred to Russian sailors at the Saint-Nazaire harbor on November 14th but this procedure was postponed for an indefinite period of time. Before that, the second Mistral, the “Sevastopol” was launched. On November 25 French authorities announced that electronic equipment, including hard drives and a device operating the helicopter carrier’s communications system had been stolen from the ship.
The delay of the Mistral transfer to Moscow, as explained by Francois Hollande, the president of France, is because Russia isn’t fulfilling the Minsk Agreement for eastern Ukraine – on the cessation of hostilities in Donbas and not supplying the separatists with arms. Moscow is going to lodge a complaint against the French authorities due to their halting the transfer of Mistral. Paris, for the time being however, may not be concerned about losing this case. The contract signed in June 2011 contains a force majeure situation that allows a delay of contract conditions for three months. This means that officially Paris has time till until mid-February of next year to decide whether to transfer the first Mistral, the “Vladivostok” to Russia or not. According to the contract, the official date of transfer of the second Mistral, the “Sevastopol” is November 2015).
Some argue that it would be good if a NATO-member country (or countries) bought the Mistrals ordered by Russia – that this would settle the prob­lem. Russia wouldn’t get these dangerous ships and Paris would be enable to pay Moscow the billions in fines. But this is not feasible because on the Mistrals ordered by Moscow, special cable systems are installed that were chosen by the Russian military for communications and fire targeting. Also, the sterns of the “Vladivostok” and “Sevastopol” are manufactured in one of the shipyards of Saint Petersburg, and the Kremlin will by no means agree to sell it to another country.
Directors of the Russian military-industrial companies actually hope for the break-up of the Mistral deal; they are eager to have the fines paid by France channeled through the Kremlin to them to build similar ships with the same function.
Despite such controversial circumstances, the appearance of a Mistral-type universal helicopter-carrier (e.g. “Sevastopol”) in the Russian Black Sea Fleet would be a huge threat for Black Sea countries, first of all for Ukraine and Georgia. After the August 2008 war a Russian Admiral Vladimir Visotksy declared, “If we had a Mistral we’d land our troops on the Georgian coastline in 40 minutes instead of 48 hours.” The Mistral was created for such assault operations (namely, for marine and airborne landing on the enemy territory) thus it always carries a potential threat – what’s more in the hands of an aggressive government such as Russia’s.

Our dossier:

The maximum length of the Mistral-class universal helicopter-carrier is 199 meters; width – 32 meters; water descent – 6.2 meters; standard displacement -16,500 tons; maximum displacement 21,000 tons. When launching, this figure goes up to 32,000 tons; maximum speed of the ship is 18.8 knots 934.8 km/hr) and at this speed it can cover 10,800 km; at a more economic speed of 15 knots (28 km/hr) the distance is 19,800 km. The Mistral crew consists of 160 men and it can carry 150 headquarter officers and 450 marines (at shorter distances this number is doubled, totaling 900). It can hold 1,100 tons of cargo (including tanks, armored vehicles, missile complexes, etc). 16 helicopters can be used for deploying marines onto enemy shores along with 4 landing boats.

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