Russia Wants To (Ultimately) Acquire the Mistral Helicopter Carriers

Moscow wants to buy the Mistrals, a deal that is not going be closed anytime soon, unless Putin resigns from his involvement in Ukraine.

Press release by the Russian Helicopters company suggests that the naval version of Ka-52 helicopter, with Ka-52K designation (where K stands for korabielny, which means naval), is ready and the first examples of this rotor-craft have already been manufactured.

They are to undergo test flying program quite soon.

The naval variant has an ability to have its rotor blades folded, in order to provide better space management aboard the helicopter carriers. Lack of the tail rotor means that the choppers are well suited for being carrier-based, even though they are slightly taller than their Western counterparts.

The piece of information above is particularly interesting in the light of France suspending the deliveries of the Mistral vessels, which are to be the carrier for the new helicopters.

Ka-52K’s prototype has been tested aboard another Russian carrier, Kuznetsov. Though, the latest events suggest that the naval variant of Hokum may not get a mother-ship on which it would be stationed. Reports by claim that the Mistrals would be home for 8 Ka-52Ks and same number of multipurpose utility Ka-29TB’s.

According to another report which has been published by the Polish State Radio, Jean-Yves Le Drian, head of the French MoD, stated that Mistrals will not be delivered to Russia anytime soon. The French have their reasons for such course of action.

The Russians do not act in compliance with the Minsk Memorandum, hence, as Le Drian stated, they should not be surprised with the fact that France would cancel the Mistral deals. This situation is caused by the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. The change in the French policy on the issue of the Mistrals is quite visible, since Francois Hollande stated earlier that the helicopter carrier deal has been suspended. Now, the fate of the contract is on the edge, it may not even be concluded.

The Mistrals deal was to facilitate a purchase of two vessels, and its value is worth $1.6 billion. This is the most lucrative military equipment import agreement in which the Russians have been involved since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The first ship was to be delivered in October or November, while the second example was to be procured next year.

The deal is especially sensitive, due to the fact that the ships in question are not a defensive piece of equipment, they are rather an offensive weapon; they are able to accommodate 700 soldiers, 16 assault helicopters and 50 armored vehicles, which makes them similar in character to the assault ships used by the US Marines.

During the meeting between Russia, Ukraine and OSCE, a plan for peace, consisting of 12 sections, has been made. It assumes that all the personnel and equipment that supports the rebels in the Eastern part of Ukraine shall be withdrawn, and the hostages should be released.

The press officer of the Ukrainian Defense and National Security Council, Andriy Lysenko, stated that 3 columns of the Russian vehicles with military equipment have crossed the Ukrainian border at night on Dec. 5. 2014. Donetsk airport is a theater for particularly intensive fights during which, according to the official information released by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, the Russian troops were decimated.

So what’s next for the Mistrals?

Well, their fate is still unknown. One thing seems to be certain as of yet – France will not deliver the ships until the Russians stop their activities within the Ukrainian territory. The latest events suggest that Mistral may be a key factor in the negotiations between Russia, Ukraine and UE. Both Russian and Western media outlets pointed out, that Putin may treat the acquisition of Mistral as an important deal for the Russian Navy. In the meanwhile, helicopters are ready.

Image credit: Russian Helicopters


About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.