Russia agrees to buy French helicopter carriers

PARIS, (Reuters) – Russia has agreed to buy two  helicopter carriers from a France-led consortium, the French and  Russian governments said on Friday, in Moscow’s first major  foreign arms purchase since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Under the long-discussed deal, the Mistral-type amphibious  assault ships will be built by French shipyard companies DCNS  and STX along with Russia’s state-run United Shipbuilding  Corporation, known as OSK.

Some of France’s NATO allies had voiced concern, urging  Paris not to sell Moscow high-tech systems that could be used  against Russia’s former communist neighbours, especially since  Russia’s brief 2008 war with neighbouring Georgia.

DCNS is a quarter owned by defence electronics group Thales.  The deal contains an option for two further carriers to be built  at a later date, the statement said.

The statement did not put a price on the deal, but the  carriers are likely to cost between 400 million and 500 million  euros each ($525 million to $655 million).

The purchase is part of Russia’s bid to modernise its ageing  armed forces, burdened by Soviet-era equipment that military  leaders said was exposed as outdated in the Georgia war.

Talks between Russia and France over the carriers have been  complicated by Moscow’s desire to acquire technology along with  the ships, as well as questions over where they would be built.

The statement did not say where the ships will be built, but  it is likely that at least the first one will be produced in  France while later ones could be built in Russian shipyards  using French technology.

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