“We are working on agreements that would allow us to produce and purchase this ship,” General Nikolai Makarov told reporters, referring to the French-made Mistral heavy helicopter carrier.
He declined to specify a price for the purchase. Asked when the deal would be finalized, however, Makarov said: “This year.”
Makarov said the discussions so far concerned purchase by Russia of one of the French-made vessels, an amphibious force projection and command ship that can carry up to 16 heavy helicopters as well as hovercraft and landing craft.
But he indicated that talks were in progress on possible future joint production of several more of the sophisticated warships.
“We also want to establish production of a series of at least four or five ships of this class,” he said.
Makarov said the Russian navy did not currently possess this kind of ship, which is costly and complicated to build, and would therefore look for a supplier outside Russia.
Russia has long talked up plans to modernize its armed forces. Outright purchase of a warship from a NATO member country, however, would mark a significant change from past practice that has focused on domestic production.
The French navy currently has two Mistral amphibious assault vessels in service and this year began construction of a third. Makarov did not specify which of the ships Russia planned to buy.