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Russia seeks more foreign built warships: Navy chief

A file photo of France's Mistral-class vessels

MOSCOW (AFP/PTI): The Russian navy may expand its search for a new helicopter-carrier to other NATO members, while still negotiating to buy one of France's latest Mistral-class vessels, its chief said Friday.

Naval commander-in-chief Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, quoted by Russian news agencies, said, "I confirm that negotiations for the purchase of a Mistral are under way, but it is highly probable that tenders will be sought.

"Several countries in the world possess similar technology, including in particular the Netherlands and Spain."

He added, "We will not only buy the helicopter carrier but also the technology for building it."

Vysotsky said that a Mistral-type warship, which can carry 16 heavy helicopters, landing-craft and troops and also act as a command and control vessel, would greatly enhance the Russian navy's fighting capacity.

"During the events of August 2008 (when Russia fought a brief war with Georgia), such a ship would have enabled the Russian Black Sea Fleet to have accomplished its mission in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours," he claimed.

The Russian armed forces chief of staff, General Nikolai Makarov, said last month that Moscow planned to buy a Mistral in an unprecedented deal experts said reflected Kremlin efforts to accelerate military modernisation.

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