Russia said Wednesday it plans to buy a new helicopter-carrying assault warship from NATO-member France in an unprecedented deal experts say reflects Kremlin efforts to accelerate military modernization.
The agreement for purchase of one Mistral-class naval ship also equipped with hovercraft and landing craft will be completed by the end of the year, the Russian chief of staff, General Nikolai Makarov, said.
He did not name a price, but the Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported this month that the ship, which can carry 16 heavy helicopters, 470 airborne troops and other gear, costs 700 million euros (995 million dollars).
Christian at Defense Tech jokes that the Mistral would be less than useful in another war against Georgia. I'm not sure that's even true; the contribution of the Russian Navy to victory against Georgia was detailed on this blog, and the presence of a modern, effective amphibious warship would have created even more problems for the Georgians. More importantly, a Mistral gives the Russian Navy a much greater capacity to conduct operations and project power in distant parts of the globe. This isn't to say that the Russians are about to conduct an expeditionary campaign in Somalia, but a Mistral certainly gives them options they didn't previously have.