The political events of recent months connected with Ukraine have most seriously affected military-technical cooperation. Under EU sanctions, not only arms and military equipment purchases from our country, but also the import of European arms and technologies into Russia, have been included. By itself, military imports from Europe are not significant for domestic defense capability (possibly, except for the supply of certain materials and components), and a number of sensational contracts in the past were curtailed even before the promotion of the sanctioned flywheel, for example, for the supply of Italian light armored vehicles Iveco LMV65. But clouds are gathering over the symbol of relations between Russia and the EU - a contract worth 1,16 billion euros for the supply of two French universal landing ships (UDC, in our naval traditions - DVKD, landing helicopter dock ships) of the Mistral type.
They were ordered by Russia in 2011 from the French shipbuilding association DCNS. The cost of the two ships will be 980 million euros, and the remaining costs imply the transfer of technical documentation and licenses, training, etc. The contract parameters assumed the acquisition by Russia of two UDCs, which are being built in France with the head role of DCNS by the STX Europe shipyard in Saint-Nazaire ( parts under the contract were manufactured in St. Petersburg at LLC Baltiysky Zavod - Shipbuilding), and an option for two more ships, which should be made in Russia in the future. It should be noted that, according to the available information on the contract structure, the shipborne automated battle control system SENIT 9 is transmitted to the Russian side only if four UDC are ordered.
Let's pay attention to the fact that already in 2012 year it was reported: the order of the Russian Navy for a Mistral type UDC can be reduced from four to two buildings. Allegedly about this, President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart Francois Hollande. As compensation, Paris was invited to take part in the construction of five ski resorts in the North Caucasus under the program to create the notorious North Caucasian tourist cluster.
Anyway, as a result only two UDC should be transferred to our Navy. It should be noted that, at the request of the customer, changes were made to the basic project, related to the need to install Russian weapons systems, as well as to adapt ships for operations at low temperatures. It is reasonable to assume that the SENIT 9 system is not transmitted.
Before the Ukrainian events, despite the criticism of this purchase in Russia and objective difficulties, construction was carried out almost without deviations from the schedule and the lead ship - Vladivostok should have come to Russia in October 2014 to complete the construction of Shipyard Severnaya Verf OJSC . However, high-order events intervened in the business deal, connected with Western discontent with the Russian policy toward Ukraine. And the contract for two UDC has become a bargaining chip, a means of blackmail.
Although France until recently resisted pressure from other EU countries, NATO and the US, which demanded to freeze the supply of ships, on the eve of the summit of the North Atlantic Alliance in Wales, President Hollande nevertheless made a statement about the conditions for transferring the first UDC of the Mistral type to Russia. Under them at that time meant a cease-fire in the east of Ukraine. Traditionally, there were responses of official and unnamed Russian individuals who threatened France with lawsuits and penalties, but as far as can be judged, the real red line will be 1 November of this year, when under the terms of the contract Vladivostok should be handed over to the customer (“Sevastopol” - 1 November 2015 of the year).
In anticipation of this event, many are wondering: how will the situation develop if Paris nevertheless decides to suspend the transfer of the ship. It is obvious that the negative consequences of such a move will hit primarily France itself, and they are being actively discussed in the pages of the foreign press. But much more interesting are the possible actions of Russia.
If we leave out the question of the need for a UDC as part of the Russian Navy and how to accept that the fleet needs them, the question immediately arises of the possibilities of the Russian defense industry to import such a class of ships.
Recall that the "Mistral" have a full displacement of 21 300 tons and are a kind of reduced version of the classic American UDC, presenting a balanced design for specific French needs. These are expedition ships for long-term operations in remote waters, including use as a control ship, with minimum requirements for the combat component. The Mistrals have a high degree of automation, were designed to a significant extent according to commercial standards, and were the first in the world — out of large combat units — equipped with an electric power installation and steering-wheel propellers. In the ship's internal dock it is possible to place boats: four amphibious LCM types, or two American LCAC air cushions, or two high-speed L-CAT catamaran “water cutting” type.
Interestingly, in the shadow of the main contract for the Russian Navy, an agreement was signed with the French on the 2013 spring for the supply of four STM NG landing boats (built by STX Lorient), which must also be transferred before 1 in November 2014. There is an option for four more boats, for the Vladivostok DVKD, but in the light of recent events its fate remains vague (however, it cannot be excluded that it was possible to sign it during the summer of 2014).
Obviously, neither the Russian nor the Soviet shipbuilders had any experience of such construction, especially at such a technological level. Those large landing ships that were part of the USSR Navy and were inherited by the modern fleet, conceptually and technologically represent a completely different direction. Taking into account the fact that, according to known data, the design of the UDC was not ordered by the Russian design bureau in the post-Soviet period, we can assume: at best, there are only draft designs made initiatively. That is, with the possible issuance of an order by the Ministry of Defense, it will take several years only to prepare a project. Experience in developing projects of an aircraft carrier by the forces of Nevskoye PKB, as well as a smaller displacement ship of the squadron destroyer class (design has been going on for several years) eloquently speaks of possible difficulties on this path.
The underlying difficulties in the construction of their own can be traced by stories with the modernization of the Tavkr 11434 “Admiral Gorshkov” project for an Indian customer, with a series of frigates of the 22350 project, as well as with the lead large landing ship of the 11711 project “Ivan Gren”, we note, much simpler in design than the Mistral.
Considering the fact that today the main shipyards of the country are already engaged in the implementation of the established armament program for the period up to 2020, as well as a number of civilian programs, and taking into account the limited number of sites with long berths or docks, orders being built or planned for laying, among them, two more UDC in the coming years looks unlikely.
Finally, we must not forget about the technological aspect. We have already mentioned that the UDC Mistral is equipped with an electric power installation and propeller propellers, the development of which in Russia in the light of the embargo on the transfer of dual-use technologies looks almost unreal. The same can be said about a number of other ship systems, such as the SENIT 9 combat information management system mentioned above. The possibility of developing domestic analogues in a reasonable time is in doubt. And the cost of these ships is a big question.
There remains the option of cooperation with other countries. If we recall the history of the contract for the purchase of UDC for Russia, then along with the French, the projects of the Dutch company Schelde Shipbuilding, the Spanish Navantia and the Russian "Zvezda" took part in the tender. They put up for tender landing ships of the Rotterdam, Juan Carlos I and Dokdo classes, respectively. At the same time, Zvezda acted as a partner of the South Korean Daewoo Marine Shipbuilding & Engineering (DSME). For obvious reasons, the Dutch and Spanish projects are already irrelevant, but attention should be paid to the potential for cooperation with South Korea, even despite the not entirely successful experience of joint construction of a shipyard with the same Daewoo.
Dokdo has a total displacement of 19 tons, is equipped with a docking chamber with two LCAC LCVs and an under-deck hangar for 000 UH-10 helicopters. Landing capacity is 60 people and up to 720 pieces of equipment (including six tanks) The ship carries significant defensive weapons. Diesel EC provides a speed of up to 23 knots.
Moreover, as can be judged, unlike similar units in other countries, the Korean UDC is not focused on overseas expeditionary operations, but on operations in coastal waters. That is, its purpose is more in line with the interests of the Russian Navy. At the same time, the South Korean fleet plans to have three such ships, considering them as flagship units of the three formed strike groups. The second UDC of the series was ordered in 2012 year.
Of course, as in much of the other Korean military equipment, Dokdo has a significant amount of components and equipment made in the USA, that is, it falls under the American export control regime ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). In fact, a ship cannot be delivered abroad without the consent of the United States government. Washington has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to apply the ITAR principles, that is, for our country, the threat of failure when trying to purchase military products and dual-use equipment is not at all contrived. But this also opens up a possible field for cooperation with Russia, which, for its part, can supply or develop analogues of American systems.
Note that we have extensive experience of cooperation with Korean enterprises in the field of high-tech military developments. So, our country supplied the RD-191 engine for the KSLV-1 launch vehicle, in Russia a multifunctional radar for the KM-SAM medium-range air defense systems was actually developed, we took an active part in the development of the Chiron-1 MANPADS. That is, experience, we emphasize once again, is available, and on a mutually beneficial basis. Another interesting fact is that some developments in the interests of Koreans have found application in Russia. So, thanks to the KSLV-1 flight, the universal rocket module (first stage) for the Russian Angara was actually tested, and the radar from the KM-SAM system will become an integral part of the new Russian Vityaz complex.
A project of this kind can also be claimed on the world market. The construction of their UDC is currently assumed, in particular, Germany, Italy and, apparently, the PRC. A number of foreign companies are developing projects of such ships for export offers. In India, announced a tender for the construction of four UDC. At the same time, they are ordered and put into service by several other countries. In September of this year, UDC Kalaat Beni-Abbes was transferred to the Algerian fleet by the Italian company Orizzonte Sistemi Navali. Myanmar also declared its interest in the procurement of UDC, and, which is typical, for the DSME project.
Thus, there is reason to assume that the Russian-Korean UDC has the right to exist and can be implemented in the metal. With a successful localization, the “Russified” Dokdo is able to become an even more formidable player in the global arms market, with our participation.
The Russian shipbuilding industry showed its ability to be a reliable cooperation partner in the implementation of the contract for the same Vladivostok and Sevastopol, when, although not without roughness, the stern parts were built on time and docked with what the French had made, with millimeter "gaps. Finally, a joint Russian-Korean project could fill the production program for the Far-Eastern shipyard under construction with new content.