France took one for the team in agreeing to extend EU sanctions on rogue nation Russia to include two very expensive Mistral helicopter carriers. The sale of the Mistral warships would have been the largest sale of military hardware ever by a NATO nation to Russia. That is not to be, however, as the EU sanctions related to Putin’s blatant attack on Ukraine with Russian troops are not going to be lifted any time soon.

Malaysia in talks to buy Mistral warships initially built for Russia
Source: Pixabay

That said, given the high-tech carriers are now practically complete, France is stuck with a total of five Mistrals in its fleet when it can really only afford three. France has therefore been looking for a buyer for the Mistrals, which cost more than a half a billion dollars each to build. Several countries have been mentioned as possible buyers for the French warships, including Brazil, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

A Wednesday article from the French Tribune newspaper suggests that Malaysia is also a possible contender for the warships, and that India is also apparently interested.

More on sale of Ex-Russian Mistral warships

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is just about to take a trip to Malaysia where he will discuss selling the two Mistral-class warships initially built for Russia to Malaysia, according to the report in the Tribune.

Over the last couple of weeks, French media sources have been suggesting that that Egypt and Saudi Arabia were the most serious potential bidders for the Mistral amphibious assault ships. Of note, countries other than Brazil, Egypt and Saudi Arabia that have been mentioned as possibly interested in the ships include Canada, China, India and the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande came to an agreement to cancel the contract for the construction of the two Mistral-class ships almost three weeks ago.

France has already paid off the cancellation fee, but the sum was not initially made public. However, French government spokesman Stephane le Foll said Wednesday that the cancellation fee is less 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), and includes refunding all the advances paid by Russia. The spokesman noted he could not give the exact figure yet because the French parliament must first be formally informed.

Of note, the cancellation fee paid to Russia does not include the considerable costs of maintaining the carriers in the French port of Saint Nazaire.

Russia is currently in the process of dismantling communication equipment is dismantled from the ships. When this process is complete, France will formally retake control of both warcraft.

French Defense Minister Le Drian will arrive in Malaysia on August 30th. Of interest, the minister also plans to visit India ton this trip to finalize a contract for the delivery of 36 Rafale jets to the Indian military.

Details on Mistral helicopter carriers

Military experts note that French Mistral Class ships are slightly smaller than contemporary Australian Canberra Class LHDs or Italy’s Cavour Class aircraft carriers as it does not have a “ski jump” that enables fixed-wing aviation capability. Exercises have also shown compatibility with heavy-lift helicopters in the front landing slot, however, and well deck compatibility with LCAC hovercraft and conventional landing ships.

The 21,300 ton Mistral Class “BPC” ships are dual-purpose helicopter carriers and amphibious assault transports, and also have some capabilities to operate as command ships and naval hospitals. They are driven by electric-powered thruster pods, much like those used on modern cruise ships, with two  more bow thrusters for extra maneuverability in close quarters. These ships are officially made to the specs of the Russian Vladivostok Class and include a few unique features, but the warships are closely based on the Mistral Class.

Mistral Class vessels have a standard capacity of 450 equipped troops for a duration of six months, but the number can be boosted to 700 troops (or others) for shorter periods of time. Standard hospital capacity is 69 beds, and the facility has a top of the line modern operating room. Hospital capacity can also be expanded in emergencies. The command post section is designed with workstations for up to 150 staff.

The ships have a vehicle storage capacity of 2,650 square meters, which means they can hold 60 wheeled armored vehicles, or 46 vehicles plus 13 AMX-56 Leclerc medium tanks, or 40 tanks and a variety of support equipment and munitions.

Mistral Class warships also include various landing craft, including standard LCMs, American LCAC hovercraft and the new, high-tech French L-CAT landing catamarans.