Russian sailors will begin training on the Vladivostok, a Mistral-class helicopter carrier, June 22, about three weeks later than planned. (FRANK PERRY/AFP)
PARIS — Some 400 Russian sailors are expected on June 22 to start training on the Mistral-class helicopter carrier, marking a slight delay from an induction planned to start earlier in the month, media reports said.
The personnel had been due to arrive in France June 1 but the Russian training ship, the Smolny, which was transporting them suffered damage at the Kronstadt military naval base and needed repairs, public service broadcaster France Television 3 and Agence France-Presse have reported.
The Smolny is due to sail on June 18 and will head for Saint-Nazaire, northwest France, the media reports said.
A French Navy officer said it took years of experience for French crews to operate the Mistral to its full capacity. France sent the Mistral to the Lebanon crisis in 2006 to bring back French and foreign nationals when the first-of-class ship had just been handed over to the service.
The combat operations in the 2011 Serval campaign against Libya took the crews to a high level of complexity, with 20 helicopters on board rather than the 16 units planned for the ship, the officer said. The naval-air mission included day and night operation, made possible by the personnel working the onboard systems to an advanced standard.
Initial training on the first Russian Mistral, named Vladivostock, will consist of familiarization with the ship and its equipment in the Saint-Nazaire dockyard.
The French authorities are due to decide in October whether to hand over the helicopter carrier to Russia. Moscow has insisted on Paris observing the contract for two ships, worth €1.2 billion (US $1.6 billion), and held out prospects for further business, or pay a hefty compensation if the vessels are withheld.