MOSCOW --- Two amphibious assault ships bought for the Russian Navy from France in a 1.2 billion euro deal will not be able to operate in temperatures below seven degrees centigrade, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin admitted on Saturday, in critical comments about the contract.
"It's very odd that ships for offloading a landing force, floating in our latitudes won't work in temperatures below seven degrees," said Rogozin, who has special responsibilities for the defense industry, in a meeting of the Academy of Military Science on Saturday.
"Maybe they thought we’re going to undertake special operations in Africa but I doubt that’s going to happen," he added. He did not elaborate on why the ships would not work in cool temperatures. It was also unclear whether he meant plus seven degrees or minus seven, as Russian-speakers often leave out the word for minus when they assume it is clear which side of freezing they are talking about.
Russia signed the 1.2 billion euro deal in June 2011 for two of the Mistral ships, which will carry helicopters to support landings by marines. The first of the ships is due for delivery in 2014.
Rogozin was appointed to his current post only in December 2011.
The first Mistral is due to be deployed in Russia's Pacific Fleet, based in the port of Vladivostok, which is ice-free all year round but still experiences months of severe winter cold. The second is due to be deployed with the Northern Fleet, which also has ice-free bases, due to the Gulf Stream, but also experience very cold temperatures for several months a year.
It is the second time this week that the Mistral deal has come under fire from a senior defense official. On Thursday, Military-Industrial Commission Deputy Head Ivan Kharchenko described the deal to buy the ships as “absurd,” saying the deal had inflicted harm on the Russian shipbuilding industry.