Industry Notebook
Nov 15, 2009

Russia Shows Interest in French Ships

For over a year, the Russian Navy Command has been showing a strong interest for the French Navy’s “Mistral” Class LHD. This interest has been discussed between the two countries at the highest level ­(Ministry of Defence, Prime Minister and President), on several occasions. Should this request for four ships be contracted, the Mistral (worth M$600-750 a copy), would be the largest vessel Russia has ever bought. As a multi-purpose vessel, it is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles (including 13 main battle tanks), and up to 900 troops. Equipped with a 70-bed hospital, the vessel can also be used as a Combined Joint Task Force HQ.

The Russian navy reportedly requires additional capabilities in domains such as afloat Command & Control, power ­projection at sea (even though Russia has amphibious vessels), support from the sea to forces ashore and for humanitarian or disaster relief.

In addition to reinforcing military capabilities that Russia lacks presently, such a vessel would also provide a powerful diplomatic tool, unquestionably increasing its credibility on the international scene. As Russian shipyards won’t be able to design and build this type of a vessel for many years, it is looking to develop a real naval sector cooperation with a Western country.

Russia is looking at Spanish, Dutch and Korean products as well, but the “Mistral,” seems to be better positioned due to several key factors. Importantly, two of the units are currently in service with the French Navy (a third identical ship is being built now and a fourth is planned). These ships, designed and built by France’s warship supplier, DCNS, have demonstrated their capabilities in real operational environments. In particular, they had been used in Lebanon during summer 2006, just prior to commissioning, both for humanitarian operations (refugees evacuation including Canadian nationals) and for landing armoured forces (UN mission reinforcement). The re-configuration from one type of mission to another has validated the interest of having such a flexible tool.

French Navy’s “Mistral” Class LHD in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The “Mistral” made a port visit in Saint-Petersburg in late November. The most sensational media event was the landing aboard (ship underway in open sea) of three different Russian helicopters (Kamov 27, 29 and 52).

A strong supporter of this deal, the Russian Navy’s Chief, Admiral Vysotskiy recently declared: “In the conflict in August last year [against Georgia], a ship like that would have allowed Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission in 40 minutes, not 26 hours, which is how long it took us [to land the troops ashore]” (Interfax, September).

Other in-country supporters have publicly stated that the acquisition of advanced French technologies for building these ­vessels would renew Russia’s decaying shipbuilding capabilities.

Political aspects of this potential sale are obviously quite sensitive. Georgia and the Baltic States have concerns due to their vicinity... we’ll keep an eye on progress.

WiDS' First Coin Awarded to Louise Mercier-Johnson 

The Women in Defence and Security Association (WiDS) has struck a commemorative coin in honour of its 5th Anniversary. The WiDS logo is cast in a two-sided pewter coin that will be presented as tokens of appreciation to members and individuals who make a meaningful difference to the defence industry in general, and specifically the advancement and promotion of women in the defence environment.

WiDS President Anne Healey chose their annual ­holiday networking event during which to honour the first recipient. The very special first coin was presented to Louise Mercier-Johnson, president of FrontLine Services, who was the originator of WiDS in Canada and the founding officer of WiDS. Charmed by this special honour, Mercier-Johnson challenged guests to each return next year with one new member. Visit the web site to join.

WiDS provides mentorship and leadership to women in the broadest sense of the defence industry. This message is supported throughout the leadership of the Canadian Forces, and has been demonstrated by the enthusiastic support and attendance at various WiDS events by ­Minister Peter McKay. More than 20 defence and security industry companies have also shown their support, including Rockwell Collins, General Dynamics, Hill & Knowlton, Dew Engineering, FrontLine Magazine, L-3, IBM and a wonderful collections of others who have grown with WiDS as its continued in its advocacy and leadership role.

Stealth Fighter Arrives at Maryland Test Site 

15 Nov 2009 – The first Lockheed Martin F35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing fighter arrived at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, where it will undergo flight tests leading up to hovers and vertical landings.

© FrontLine Defence 2009