Russian military announces helicopter carrier tender

Russia’s Defense Ministry has officially announced a tender for four universal amphibious assault ships. Security officials say French Mistral class helicopter carriers are the favorite in the run.

The tender terms are classified, First Deputy Defence Minister Vladimir Popovkin told journalists at the Euronaval-2010 military exhibition in Le Bourget, just outside Paris. He said two of the vessels Russia wants to buy will be made by the contractor on home turf while two others will be built in Russia in a technology-sharing enterprise.

The ministry expects tender documents from participants in mid-November, while the contract will be sealed by the year end. Popovkin did not specify which companies have been invited to take part in the tender.

According to Vedomosti newspaper, French shipbuilders from the companies DCNS and STX are going to compete with Dutch Schelde Shipbuilding, Spanish Navantia, and Russian Zvezda teamed up with South Korean Daewoo Marine Shipbuilding & Engineering for the defense contract.

Earlier on Tuesday, Deputy Defence Minister Vera Chistova said the money for the purchase of the ships has already been reserved, although she did not specify the sum. Estimates say the deal may be worth as much as 1.5 billion euros.

Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said the government will ensure that the deal is facilitated. Russia should be “looked at differently”, ITAR-TASS cites him as saying.

“You can’t talk about strategic partnership in security and peacekeeping and at the same time treat the country exclusively as the heir of the Soviet Union,” the minister said.